Thrilled to be back as a guest on ETalk, this time discussing etiquette as part of their wedding week.
Thrilled to be back as a guest on ETalk, this time discussing etiquette as part of their wedding week.
In the past two weeks, Rihanna has been giving me an awful lot of content. The nice people at ETalk asked me about her gratuitous Facebook album (check out the interview here) and then yet another scandalous photo prompted me weighing in on this discussion on FASHION Magazine.
I’m all for controversy. I appreciate boundary pushing. I like smart, interesting subversion. But I don’t like cheap.
By Kyla Parrish | May 8th, 2012 | 5:30 pm
Another day, another half-naked Rihanna picture hits Instagram. The “S&M” singer found herself splashed across the web once again after she posted yet another topless picture. Whereas the image has received a lot of attention from the blogosphere, pictures of Rihanna in various states of undress are hardly news anymore. In fact, we’d probably be more surprised if she had kept her goods covered.
Just last month Rihanna gave the world an intimate look at her life, with the star frolicking under a waterfall in Hawaii without a bikini top. After the racy romp in the water, the pop princess posed provocatively on the beach in a bandeau top that barely covered anything and rubbed sunscreen on her mostly naked body.
Rihanna is no stranger to controversy, and her sexy social media stints often have people speculating about whether or not the nearly naked pictures are a ploy to get the attention of a certain rude boy from the singer’s past. When bloggers write about Rihanna’s candid photos, they often drop the C-bomb… Chris Brown. But again, a sexy picture exchange between the former celebrity duo is hardly news. The pair grabbed headlines last year when the naked pictures Rihanna sexted to Brown were leaked.
With a collection of semi-nudes circulating the web, it was no surprise that Playboy extended an invitation to the pop star in hopes that she would grace their pages. What was surprising is that Rihanna turned the storied magazine down, and offered the explanation that she didn’t want to pose naked for money. In her own words, “If I’m gonna take my clothes off, it has to be in a classy way and my will, not a cheque. I wouldn’t take any money to do that.” Ladies of the world take note.
Perez Hilton: “We’ve seen her get nasty at the strip club, we’ve seen her roll joints on the bald heads of her entourage, but now Rihanna is literally giving us the shirt off her back…” [Perez Hilton]
Hollywoodlife.com: “She’s interesting; she’s sassy; hell, she’s confident enough to eat dinner at a trendy SoHo restaurant all alone, but instead of using her fame as a platform to become a role model, Rihanna would rather post revealing photos and passive-aggressive messages online.” [Hollywoodlife.com]
Karen Cleveland: “Rihanna’s latest photo (just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be another) is leagues below a celebrity of her ilk. It isn’t a particularly interesting or sexy shot; in fact, it smells of “try hard.” This is a woman with serious star power and a big personal brand, and we expect a bit more from her than a topless cell phone self-portrait. If her objective is to share personal shots to humanize herself to fans, that is lost entirely in the smut.”
(First published on FASHIONMagazine.com, May 2012)
I was thrilled to be back as a guest on ETalk, this time dishing Rihanna’s latest antics. She posted some overly-personal (and pretty trashy) photos to her Facebook page. Here’s what I had to say….
If you ever meet the Queen, there is protocol to follow: subjects must call her “Your Majesty” on first reference and “ma’am” after, and a bow or curtsy is not a bad idea. Most important is the “no-touch” rule: let the Queen extend her hand to you, and shake without squeezing or lingering. Do not touch the Queen’s shoulder, kiss her cheeks, or hug her.
Unless you’re Michelle Obama. In this case, crack a joke and go in for the embrace.
“Michelle hugs everybody, that’s her spirit,” says Newsweek writer Allison Samuels. The first time she met the first lady was backstage at an awards ceremony in Atlanta, when security guards tried to stop Samuels’s mother from approaching Obama, who intervened. “She said, ‘Don’t make mama leave, she’s gotta stay!’ Then Michelle gave her a big hug. My mother still talks about that moment.”
It’s not what we’re used to from first ladies, but Michelle Obama—real, down to earth, accessible—is like your best girlfriend. When challenged to a push-up competition on The Ellen Degeneres Show last month, Obama removed her jacket and dropped to the floor. (The first lady won by a landslide.)
Good television, yes, but is it good etiquette? “Truthfully, I don’t even think she cares about that stuff,” says Samuels, the author of What Would Michelle Do?: A Modern-Day Guide to Living with Substance and Style. In the vein of two similar books by different authors—2005’s What Would Jackie Do? and 2008’s What Would Audrey Do?—this is a lifestyle guide to fashion, friends and family according to Michelle Obama.
For example, it exhorts readers to pick a theme song (the book suggests something by Chaka Khan), own their accomplishments (and their mistakes), and take risks. Do make lists and timelines, write thank-you notes, and read three newspapers a day. But don’t covet others’ lives, let your anger at your husband’s absences get the better of you, or spend too much time with your BlackBerry.
Noticeably absent is any use-this-fork protocol. “Michelle’s about strength and education; the style and etiquette came later,” says Samuels. “Michelle grew up poor, but had the brains and dedication to get scholarships, to graduate from Harvard Law, to push herself forward—but not by meeting a man. This is what makes Michelle a modern-day icon.”
That said, don’t pick a dud either. An old joke has the first lady bumping into an old flame at a dinner. The President says to her, “Just think, if you’d married him, you’d be the owner of this lovely restaurant,” to which she replies, “No, if I’d married him, he would be the President!” The same story has been told of Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush, but in this case, one of Obama’s Harvard professors told Samuels he wouldn’t have been surprised if Michelle Obama had become president.
Even if you’re smarter, let your husband shine. “During the first election, people found her overpowering and a bit intimidating. When she realized she was hurting him, she toned it down. She lost the corporate outfits, she softened up,” says Samuels.
Be sure to dress the part. You’ll see Obama in dresses, cardigans and pearls, but she does take some chances. “She wears Jason Wu and Alexander McQueen, but also Banana Republic and the Gap. She’s the first first lady we’ve had in years who really loves fashion.”
Don’t judge others too harshly; learn from their mistakes. “Any comparison of first ladies should be couched in comparing the times,” cautions Toronto etiquette writer Karen Cleveland, who calls Obama “the antithesis of pretension.” Despite our tabloid culture, she “humanized and modernized her role so she’s very easy to identify with.”
Ultimately, be a role model. Samuels says Obama is important to young African-American women: “Michelle’s an icon because she teaches us that you can make your own fairy tale,” explains Samuels, emphasizing that when Michelle met Barack, he had holes in his shoes and drove a junker. “Reality shows teach young girls to go get a rich baller—a basketball player or a rapper,” she says. “But don’t be like that. Don’t be a Kardashian; be a Michelle.”
(First published in Macleans’, March 2012)
Maintaining day-to-day poise can be tough enough for us commoners — imagine if your every move was publicly picked apart and scrutinized. Such is the life of celebs.
And come Sunday — when the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards go to air — the star-watching and nit-picking will be, well, outstanding.
Which got us to thinking about those celebs who are new to the awards season game. How can they keep their cool in the midst of a wardrobe malfunction? How can they fake their way through graciously accepting defeat? What should they not do?
We checked in with our favourite etiquette expert, Karen Cleveland of the Finishing School — a national column devoted to etiquette, manners and civility, for some advice on how celebs “should” behave during the ceremony.
Play Nice. “No gum-chewing, no stepping on dresses and no swearing. I am all for a judiciously-placed cuss, but I wanted to personally wash Melissa Leo’s mouth out with soap after the last Academy Awards.”
What To Wear. “Interesting, gorgeous gowns as opposed to shock-value underwear masquerading as evening wear.”
For The Boys. “[I want to see] a parade of perfectly cut suits on perfectly cut gentlemen.”
When On The Podium. “[Give] polished, thoughtful acceptance speeches and be eloquent with red-carpet commentators.”
Never… Pull a “stage crashing a la Kanye or an acceptance-speech hijacking as Elinor Burkett did during Roger Ross Williams’ Oscar speech.”
A Word To Those Nominated, But Not Bringing Home An Award. “The camera may very well be on your reaction . Remember when Faith Hill was caught mouthing “WHAT?” when Carrie Underwood took the win at the Country Music Association Awards? I don’t either because I didn’t watch the CMAA’s, but I read all about it and was disappointed in Faith’s reaction. Like the old adage “the best mark of good manners is tolerating bad ones,” the true mark of grace is celebrating a peer winning something you desperately wanted to win yourself. A sincere smile and polite applause surely can’t be that hard to muster when you act for a living, right?”
(First published in The Huffington Post Canada, January 2012)
I am so sorry to hear that things didn’t work out for you and Kris. It was clear from the beginning that you were both madly in love and had the purest of intentions. You worked so hard, for so long, to make it work and despite your efforts, I’ve heard you’re moving on. I wish you and Kris nothing but the best.
Now, some gentle guidance around handling some delicate matters that lay ahead.
You and Kris need to return your wedding gifts, tout de suite, with handwritten notes thanking each recipient for their gift and for their understanding during this difficult time. You should send back gifts to your friends and family; Kris should send back items to his. And on the off-chance that you’ve actually unwrapped or even used a gift and it is not suitable to return to its sender, donate it to a charity.
Conventional etiquette suggests an engagement ring is a bride’s to keep, unless it is a heirloom in the groom’s family. From what I understand, your ring is not a heirloom of the Humphries family but I highly encourage you to give it back to Kris anyways. You’ve had it for such a short time, surely you can’t be sentimentally attached to it – I reckon that you’ve had the shoes on your feet for longer than you sported this ring. Moreover, its value could bring a small country out of debt and Kris shouldn’t continue to pay for it. The cost of your dignity comes in a higher price than the ring is worth.
Lastly, don’t put the badmouth on Kris and ask your friends and family to do the same. Chin up. Tight-lipped. Trash talking your ex is so common and it only throws gas on the tacky fire.
(First published on She Does the City, November 2011)
Just how far do immaculate manners go in lifting the velvet rope of the seemingly impermeable world that is the Toronto International Film Fest? You may be surprised. The best service-based spots in the city fill up fast, so you might find yourself jostling for a hair appointment alongside Keira Knightley or gunning to get into a bar in which Brad and Angelina are holding court.
Get creative. Be willing to shorten your requested service by settling for a blow-out rather than a full cut or taking a polish change over a manicure. With immaculate phone manners, politely ask to be added to a wait list, and check in regularly to see if anything has opened up. While no establishment would likely admit it, a lovely pleasant customer is more likely to find her name at the top of a waiting list than a gruff, demanding client.
Krista Foulis, spa director at Stillwater Spa at celebrity hotbed the Park Hyatt, agrees that patience and politeness go a long way. The spa gussies up their staff during TIFF and have even extended their hours occasionally, for, ahem, certain A-list clients. If the salon is fully booked, she reminds that in-room treatments might still be available. You could spring for a suite at the hotel and get gorgeous in your own room. Decadent–and worth every penny.
Late-night institution Goodnight is bound to be a TIFF destination, with a few A-list parties already slated for the spot. Owner Matt George prides himself on the neighbourhood vibe of the spot and loves it when customers treat the space like their own living room. But don’t dream of trying to grease a bouncer’s palm at Goodnight. Says George: “It’s all about building a relationship with the staff, so you can walk right in even if Brad Pitt is inside.” Get to it well become the film fest sweeps into town (as if you needed an excuse to drink another of their legendary Manhattans).
(First published in FASHION Magazine, September 2011)
When Kate and Wills (ahem, the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge) begin their weeklong tour of Canada tomorrow, we can bet that you (or at least about a hundred people you know) will be jostling to rub elbows with them. And if there ever was a time to dream, this might just be your chance to get up-close and personal. If you’re indeed that lucky, you had better brush up on your regal conduct! We wouldn’t want to pull a Michelle Obama, would we?
For the most part, the conventions of royal encounters are just that: well-observed traditions, rather than draconian rules about how to conduct yourself. Want to charm the Duchess and Duke? Take note:
1. Observe and obey
Always wait for a dignitary to give you cues: they’ll speak to you first, extend their hand first, and begin their meal/tea first. Follow their lead, subject!
2. Mind your Ps and Qs
In addressing Will and Kate, you are to use “Your Royal Highness,” followed by “sir” or “ma’am.” For example: “Your Royal Highness, welcome to the Calgary Stampede. Your boots are lovely, ma’am.” And here’s one to save for a rainy day: if meeting the Queen, the same address applies—though “Your Royal Highness” should be upgraded to “Your Majesty.”
3. A soft touch
A gentle handshake (no boardroom power grip with a fierce pump here) accompanied by a curtsey bob is de rigueur for women. A head bow is customary for men. These softened conventions are modern takes on traditional greetings like court curtsies (a grand sweeping movement, right to the ground) and formal bows for gents.
4. Off with her head!
Note that even ever-graceful American First Lady Michelle Obama botched this traditional introduction when she met the Queen (moreover, she touched the Queen’s back and approached her from behind: all royal no-no’s). Despite the gaffes, she wasn’t escorted out or banished, so perhaps times are changing and traditions are softening. But, seriously, when does a woman get to curtsey? It’s the decorum equivalent of pulling out your best china and crystal. Go be fancy.
5. Dress the part
Channel your inner Kate and show off your signature colour in an elegant day dress. No costumes necessary—a simple and polished look does best.
(First published in FASHION Magazine, June 2011)
by Sonia Verma
A linguist, photographer, fashionista, columnist and sex-shop owner share their words of wisdom for Kate Middleton:
Get off High Street
Kate Middleton has featured prominently on several best-dressed lists and has emerged, over the years, as an icon of classic, refined style. The blue Issa dress she wore to announce her engagement sold out within hours in London. She has been photographed in everything from form-fitting evening gowns to dark denim and suede knee-high boots. But fashion experts say Ms. Middleton’s wardrobe could stand a shakeup after the honeymoon is over. “I feel she needs to be more adventurous,” says Ciara Hunt, former editor-in-chief of Hello! Canada and a royal commentator. “She has great style and she knows how to dress her figure, but I do think she has to get off the High Street.” She cited Samantha Cameron and Michelle Obama as potential style role models for the princess. “They’ve shown that it’s okay to mix and match. Kate needs to stop going totally High Street. I just feel she has to raise her game a bit.”
Take a time out, together
Thirty years ago, when Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer, the bride’s virtue became a worldwide obsession. In 1981, Princess Diana’s uncle went so far as to make a public statement before her wedding to quell speculation: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she was a virgin. By contrast, Prince William and Kate Middleton have been living together on and off for years, and nobody seems to care. The couple display an easy intimacy with each other, which is part of their charm. Still, experts say, passion has to be nurtured over the course of their marriage. “Intimacy is not something that you are always going to feel. A lot of the time, you can hit a wall after the first two to three years of a relationship,” says Carlyle Jansen, founder of Good For Her, a Toronto sex shop. “Of course, pressure and stress have a huge effect on our sex lives as well. Kate’s under a lot of pressure so the couple is going to have to find ways to unwind and get away from it all in order to decompress and rekindle their passion.”
By age 11, Queen Elizabeth was able to speak six languages fluently: Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish and English. “Languages are a royal tradition, and French is at the heart of it,” says language expert and author Mark Frobose. While Kate Middleton undoubtedly studied foreign languages in school, Mr. Frobose does not believe she has mastered them. His advice: “Learn French.” “It will enhance her own experience of marriage if they are able to speak to each other in French. It is the obvious choice for Kate for several reasons. Prince William is fluent. France is right across the Chunnel and is great for romantic getaways. French is the language of romance and love.”
When Princess Diana was killed in a car crash with her boyfriend, they were being aggressively pursued by the paparazzi, a fact that still haunts the Royal Family and shapes its relationship with the press. So far, Kate Middleton has been skilled in managing the cameras, even though her family has spoken out through the Press Complaints Commission, warning photo agencies to exercise caution while photographing them. As princess, the glare of the spotlight could turn fierce. “She does a great job of handling herself already. She should keep on smiling and I would say realize that everything she is doing is being captured for the world to see,” said Louis DeFilippis, a celebrity photographer and CEO at Central Image Agency Inc. “She seems very in control. She definitely doesn’t seem to mind the attention. She’s smart about it.” Mr. DeFilippis’s photographers have captured Ms. Middleton on camera dozens of times, including shooting her in her bikini. “She knows the boundaries. Privacy is basically going to be inside her own home, as it would be for anybody else. She’s going to become a hotter news item than ever before.” His advice for Kate? “Don’t try to run, because we will always catch you.”
Keep your legs crossed
Kate Middleton has so far managed to avoid the kind of gaffes suffered by other members of the royal family. (Prince Andrew’s friendship with a convicted pedophile. Sarah Ferguson being photographed topless and apparently having her toes sucked by her “financial adviser.” Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party. We could go on.) Karen Cleveland, a Toronto etiquette columnist, is not overly concerned about Ms. Middleton. “She’s so polished and she was well before the chaos of her engagement. I don’t think we have to worry about Kate Middleton pulling a Britney when she gets out of a car,” Ms. Cleveland said. “She’s refined and I think she is going to do everyone proud.” Her advice for the young bride? Keep calm and carry on. “Continue to do what she’s been doing. She’s landed her prince. He’s clearly head over heels in love with her, so as long as she continues to be Kate I think she’s got it nailed.”
(First published in The Globe and Mail, April 2011)