Friday, 30 January 2015

Don't Imitate - Innovate!

My ideas for blogs often come to me in obscure ways. Today's blog came about whilst I was on the train to work, writing a different blog! 

There is something I've always noticed that sets me apart from other people... Trends. Not just fashion. The "latest game" the "hottest celeb" the "coolest fashion" the "best diet"... I genuinely don't understand any of it. I don't feel the need to fit in anywhere. I'm very happy being myself. Now, of course, that may lump me into the category of people who go against trends but that's not me either. 

Sure, I often like something that everyone else likes at the same time as them but I always make my own mind up about these things. I've never seen something that other people are doing and thought "these people are doing something and they are enjoying it, therefore I must do it too".  

This morning on the train to work I removed my jacket. I was hot. By the time I got to my stop I was still hot so I left my jacket off. It's my body, my decision right? That's what you'd have thought. However, as I went from the train to the tube and on the short walk to my place of work, people were looking at me as if I had 3 heads! I can only assume it's because I was only wearing a t shirt. Sure, everyone else I encountered this morning was wearing a coat at the very least. Many of them had hats/scarves/gloves on too. That's fine. They're cold. I wasn't! I have the most bizarre internal heating system that protects me greatly against the cold then falls to pieces when it warms up! I know this is not exactly a "trend" as such but I'm getting to that point. 

I used to get a lot of funny looks for wearing shorts or hotpants to college/uni in the winter. Why does it matter so much to other people what I wear? Or indeed what anyone wears? It has to be said, I'm not the most conventional looking person. I have an odd sense of dress by most people's standards. I once bought myself a pair of shoes that I had to have because they were just so ugly! I wear mostly men's clothing and the majority of my clothing is at least 5 years old. An old t shirt to me is like an old friend! I have a few t shirts that are full of holes but I absolutely could not stand to part with them so I keep wearing them! I see no reason not to. Coming up in my next blog I will discuss how my lack of interest in trends impacted my life. I genuinely have no clue about nor interest in fashion. I wear what I like because I like it! Sometimes I seem to be "right on trend" but believe me, it's purely accidental! 

Celebrity trends is one of the things that baffle me the most. Not least because celebrities these days aren't what they used to be. Sure, I like Benedict Cumberbatch like a lot of other women. That's because he did a sterling job as Sherlock Holmes and as Stephen Hawking. Yes, I'm a fan of Eddie Redmayne. He first stole my heart when he played Jack in the Pillars of the Earth mini series back in 2010. I'd read the book and Eddie played that role perfectly. He then went on to play a perfect Marius in Les Miserables - my all time favourite musical and then he did an outstanding job as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. (They are literally the only two "hot right now" celebrities I know of - that I know of - haha). I've met a whole host of celebrities. I even once worked for one. They unfaze me. Their fame is irrelevant to me. Are they nice to me? If so, I like them! I've personally met nice celebs and arsehole celebs. I also have the "shallow" physical attraction to some celebrities but if I knew (through experience not tabloids) that they weren't nice people, that attraction would disappear in an instant. 

Loving celebrities is one trend. Hating them is another. One that I dare say is more popular. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you who the "most hated celebrity" is these days? She started out on the Apprentice so I believe and is now a Twitter soap boxer. Yes, you know her, it's Katie Hopkins. Now, I fully expect to be put in the stocks for this comment but Katie Hopkins isn't all that bad. Sure, she's said a few things that got me rattled like the one about tattooed people; "I really think if you have a tattoo you have to wonder about what kind of future you have ahead of you. As an employer, I wouldn't employ someone with tattoos as I would wonder what customers would think about them." Now, as a person with 12 tattoos and counting, this irritated me at first. However, when I actually re-read what was written I realised she was right. I haven't seen the full piece on what she said and I have no desire to watch it but based on the above quote, she is not wrong. People DO treat you differently if they know you have tattoos. It's the same with coloured hair. I've had black hair since December after years of bright colourful hair and the attitudes of both my friends and perfect strangers has changed. 

I read a blog this morning by international Burlesque Performer Khandie Khisses. She was approached to "teach Katie Hopkins body acceptance via burlesque." This initial project was rejected by Khandie as she "didnt fancy someone potentially scaring off other class attendees with her views." However, the production company approached her again a few months later and after much thought, she decided to go for it. 

You will have to read the full blog to get the full story but one particular excerpt really stood out to me. 

"Katie to me is a very educated woman. A very educated and intelligent woman. A woman however who takes her views and makes them extreme to be able to get her career to work for her. No one gets press by being nice. We all want a villain. We all want a dickhead to hate. Katie fulfils that role for us. She is acutely aware of this and cultivates it. It pays for her lifestyle, her home and her future. On social media so many other users enjoy taunting her, engaging with her and it has become somewhat of an accomplishment to be blocked or replied by her. We are feeding the dragon yet hate the dragon. She is the smart one. She is making the money and we are sat here like me, merely adding more food to the pile to feed her." You know you could quite easily see Katie Hopkins in the next big Disney movie playing a bad guy!  

 Katie Hopkins quite clearly didn't get to where she is right now by being an idiot. Yes, that may well be your opinion of her but it is by no means the truth. Do I like Katie Hopkins? No. Do I hate her? No. I don't know the woman. I've never met her and she's never personally wronged me. She is by no means unique in the hatred she has cultivated globally. Jade GoodyMiley CyrusMel GibsonRussell Crowe Josie CunninghamJustin Bieber... The list is endless - and of course, the links are purposely chosen. These celebrities are all hated for various reasons. Do you think they really care?

This actually rather nicely leads me on to my next point about "sheeple". Since around 2011, I've been an active part in the cabaret community. I started out photographing a "pop up" show as a favour to a friend. I became the resident photographer for just over a year. Some 4 years later I am now a marketing assistant for a show that Time Out says is "Guaranteed to have you crawling back for more"! 

Some of my dearest friends are cabaret performers. A few of these friends have run into issues as performers. Their "extra curricular" activities have brought them under fire in their "day job" with some facing disciplinary action.  

 When I first photographed a show, I added the pictures to Facebook and almost instantly, a message pinged into my inbox;

"Why do you have pictures of nearly naked women on your Facebook? Are you a lesbian or something?"

I was pretty stunned. There are so many things wrong with this message. First of all, it's MY Facebook so I will post whatever I please. Secondly, why do I have to be a lesbian to appreciate the female form? I've recently discussed the "issues" surrounding my sexuality. It's exhausting to even think about. Finally, why is it even any of your business?! I decided it was in my best interest to not even bother to respond to the individual in question.  

 You may also have heard about Gary Barlow's derogatory comments towards Cabaret and the subsequent responses. Then there was the Hebden Bridge debacle when they banned a cabaret show for being "demeaning to women"! I kid you not!  it seems to have become a trend to put down these hard working individuals and try to make them feel shame for what they do.

For me, Cabaret has become a part of my very soul. I love everything about it. The glitter, the glamour, the performers, the variety, the ohmygoshIdidnotseethatcoming... The Cabaret community I am a part of has embraced me and made me feel valuable as an individual. Of course, in the Cabaret community, as with every community that ever existed and will ever exist in the future, there are troubles and strife but we all get along for the most part. Take, for example, the current destruction of Soho. This was first brought to my attention by the tragic closure of the legendary Madame Jojos - the show I help market was housed there. Since this sad and sorry story, many other places in and around Soho have also been given the boot to make way for apartments... Ultimately, this spells out the death of one of London's most exciting and unique areas. Celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry have backed the Save Our Soho campaign but sadly, it would seem, to no avail. What it has done though is united the cabaret world. Albeit in grief.

Once again, I am rather nicely led onto my next point. It has just recently been announced that Stephen Fry plans to wed his partner Elliot Spencer. When I heard this news, every part of me cheered. Stephen Fry is someone I have admired for many years. His overwhelming wit and intelligence coupled with his tireless campaigning for mental health and LGBT puts him right up on a pedestal for me. Almost as soon as the news broke, the trolls came a-crawling. People started bashing the couple because of the age difference. Some doomed the relationship to failure because of Fry's "incessant wining and need for attention" and others just couldn't stand to see another same-sex couple find happiness. 

If Stephen Fry does, indeed, wed his partner, what impact will this have on your life? None! If the relationship then crashes and burns for whatever reason, what impact will this have on your life? None! So why do you find it necessary to pass judgement?  

 Someone like Stephen Fry deserves happiness. He has been very frank and honest about his struggles with mental health, drugs and even his celebrity status. Who's business is it if he gets married?  

 - Stephen Fry has since wed his beau and they looked super in love! 

I still struggle to comprehend homophobia. I have posted several blogs now in relation to sexuality and things are still as clear as mud! As a student of Psychology, I often try to approach these types of behaviours with an open mind. I try to see their point of view but I never quite get it! Just like racism, sexism and just about any other ism you can think of! These "isms" seem to be trendy too. The media will say something ridiculous like "gay people want to eat your children". Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of people will start gay-bashing launching poorly constructed insults taken directly from the tabloids. Stop it. It makes you look stupid!  

 Having a mental health issue often seems "trendy" too. Sometimes if I happen to mention a mental illness I have been diagnosed with someone will say "oh, like Stephen Fry... Kerry Katona... Catherine Zeta-Jones... Robbie Williams... Blah blah". No, not like them. Not like anyone. My mental illness is different from everyone else's. Just as everyone else's mental illness is different for them. I've heard phrases being thrown about such as "oh, he's sooo moody and depressed, it's hot". What?! Really?? Having a mental illness is not "hot". It's debilitating, it's upsetting, it's terrifying. 

Friends of mine will actively avoid some discussions with me. They refuse point blank to hear my side of things. How I feel about a particular subject. How I arrived at my conclusion. They just just jump straight to "Oh you can't talk about pedophiles/eugenics/rapists/murderers/Hitler... Etc. those things are bad". I've never once said any of these things are not bad. I've simply took it upon myself to do research in order to better educate myself to present a balanced argument rather than a knee jerk reaction fuelled by tabloids. 

I'm not saying I blame my friends for responding the way they do. They don't know any better. I try to be as open minded about things as possible. I try to gather as much information as I can in order to construct a valid rebuttal. My favourite subjects are the touchy ones for just that reason, they're touchy. Mental health used to be touchy, homosexuality used to be touchy, race used to be touchy. We've still got a long way to go in relation to these and a great many other touchy subjects but we've made a huge leap forward because people have been open. 

I think at this point I'm starting to lose steam! You get my drift though right? Stop being sheeple! Yes, a hive mind can be great from time to time but more often than not, you should form your own opinions based on knowledge and experience. If you know nothing of a subject research it. Then proceed! Those who blend into the crowd will never be able to make a difference. 

Don't imitate, innovate! 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Blue Monday

There is a particular day of the year just after Christmas that people find the most depressing. They call this day Blue Monday.

It is alleged that this originated as part of a publicity campaign from Sky Travel to encourage people to book a Winter Sun holiday. Cliff Arnall then created a formula for Blue Monday as follows:

where W=weather, D=debt, d=monthly salary, T=time since Christmas, Q=time since failing our new year’s resolutions, M=low motivational levels, and Na=the feeling of a need to take action. Again, no units were defined.

The date is supposed to fall on the Monday of the last full week of January. This year, it falls on 19 January.  Of course, since it's publication, there have been many naysayers who have debunked the idea, referring to it as pseudoscience. 

Contrary to this, researchers analysed more than 2million tweets posted by Britons looking for negative language and phrases indicating a drop in mood. They found that there will be nearly five times the number of tweets related to guilt owing to peoples' failed new year's resolutions. In an analysis conducted by drinks company Upbeat,it was found complaints about the weather will be six times higher than usual – and men will feel more miserable than women. Legal experts also dub this day as "Divorce Monday" as it is the most popular day of the year for starting divorce proceedings. 

Call it what you will, the end of January tends to be pretty bleak all round. It's a long time until payday, you realise you overspent and overindulged at Christmas, you couldn't keep to your New Year's resolution, your house looks bare now all the decorations have been taken down, you're back into the swing of things at your 9-5 job and the weather is truly awful! It's hard not to feel a little blue in all honesty! 

National Awareness Days says; Blue Monday is a special day, for people to focus on doing good for each other. Not necessarily presents and cards, just little acts of kindness (or big ones, if you like).

What will you be doing this Blue Monday? If you have no plans, come on down to Bethnal Green Working Men's Club for a celebration like no other! Cabaret Roulette are throwing a bash to banish the blues!  This event is pay-what-you-can and all money raised will go straight to MIND mental health charity.

If you can't make it to the show, there are limited edition art prints of the show's poster available to purchase. Head on over to Cabaret Roulette's Facebook page for more information.  

Poster created by Lou Safire

For more information about the performers involved, see the lineup HERE