Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Me and Mr Darcy

Me and Mr Darcy is the story of Emily Albright, a hopeless romantic who loves Shakespeare books. This is highly appropriate considering that she manages a bookstore in NYC. Her idea of a perfect night in is curling up on the sofa with a glass of wine with her nose in Pride and Prejudice. Unfortunately for Emily modern men do not do it for her and seem to lack the good old chivalry that is rampant in period fiction. With her love life looking rather bleek, Emily faces spending Xmas alone in her apartment, well it is either that or spending it on a nightmarish 18-30s holiday with her mate Stella. She decides to head to the England countryside on a guided tour of Jane Austen. The holiday turns out to be full of fun and adventure and rather like the books that she reads. I had the honour of interviewing Alexandra Potter, the author of Me and Mr Darcy and asked a few questions or two about writing, coffee and life in LA.

What was the inspiration for your latest book? Did it have anything to do with the current trend for period books and dramas?
My inspiration is actually quite funny! I was complaining to my boyfriend about how men these days are not romantic anymore, and I said 'Why can't the men in real life be like the men you read about in books, all chivalrous and brooding and sweeping you off your feet. Why can't men be like Mr Darcy?' And my boyfriend said, 'I bet you wouldn't like Mr Darcy if you dated him.' And I replied. 'Yes I would!' To which he laughed and said, 'You should write a book about that.' And so I did.

You tend to write about women who are not willing to settle for second best in terms of their career or relationships. Do you think this is a common trait in modern women today?
Yes, I think women today are far less willing to compromise and 'settle'. In older generations, women were brought up believe that their role in life was to be a wife and mother. That their husbands and children come first. Most women didn't have careers, and if they did, they came second to that of their husband. Today things are very different, women earn their own money, they own their own apartments, they pay their own mortgage, and with this come a sense of independence that my mother's generation did not have. Of course with this can come lots of problems….:)

You have written about a wide range of interesting female characters which one do you think you are like most?
Gosh, that's a hard question. I see parts of myself in all my lead characters. My first heroine, Delilah, was very much like I was when I was twenty-three and first moved to London. Many of her experiences, were my experiences. However, since writing that book I have changed and grown – it was eight years ago after all – and so therefore my characters have also changed. I try not to be too autobiographical, after all, I am writing fiction!

In your books some of your supporting characters have been very colourful such as Vivienne in 'What's New Pussycat' Rita in 'Going La La' and Stella in your latest title, 'Me and Mr Darcy. Have you ever considered writing a spin off title about any of those characters?
Actually, no I haven't, but I like that idea. Hmm, maybe I will…

What do you think of the term chick lit do you see it as insulting or a great definition for modern women's fiction?
Actually I do find the term 'chick lit' as rather insulting as it is usually used in a very patronising and dismissive way. There are many, many female authors writing a huge diversity of fiction with strong female characters, and to lump them all together under the term 'chick lit' is insulting. Would you call all fiction written by men and featuring male lead characters as 'lad lit'? Of course you wouldn't. Methinks there is a little bit of jealousy and snobbery going on, as modern women's fiction often tops the bestseller lists and is enjoyed and read by millions around the world. Far more than much of what is deemed 'serious' literature…

How do you get into fiction writing?
I used to write features for women's magazines in both the UK and Australia and one day I read an article about six young authors, under the age of thirty, who had all just written their first novels. The article showed extracts from their novels, and inspired me to have a go myself. And so I did. I wrote the first three chapters in my spare time and then sent them to several agents – one of whom was Stephanie Cabot at the William Morris Agency. She loved what I'd written and told me to go away and write the rest of the book, so I gave up my job, sold my car, and lived off the money for six months. At the end of it, I finished my book, and handed it into my agent, who sent it to several publishers. Two of them loved it and there was a bidding war. It was very exciting. At the end of it I had a two-book deal worth six figures, and a brand new career!

What other authors do you admire and why?
I admire lots of different authors – both classic and modern - for their style of writing, their brilliant ideas, and for their ability to simply entertain with a cracking good book. The Brontes, Jane Austen, Sophie Kinsella, Nick Hornby and Audreny Niffenegger who wrote Time Traveller's Wife, to name just a few.

What advice would you give to budding authors out there?
Don't give up. Oh, and get an agent!

The life of a writer must be a busy one. Can you describe your typical day?
Make coffee, check emails, go on the internet: read, my horoscope (and my boyfriend's) iChat my mum, call my friend Dana, make more coffee… No, but seriously – Actually, I am being serious. Every morning I go through this ritual. Only once I've exhausted every single possible excuse for procrastination, do I finally start writing. Writers are experts at procrastination. For me, it's mostly down to fear – the fear that I won't be able to think of a single funny thing to write and I'm going to spend hours staring at a flashing cursor, my mind as blank as the screen in front of me. I've written six books and trust me, I still have those days. So this is what I've learned: Inspiration does not strike in the Zara changing rooms. You're bottom does not leave that chair until you've written something. And a lot of somethings, eventually, make a novel.

Where do you do most of your writing; desk, garden, coffee shop?
I write from home a lot, but it can get very lonely – and it's VERY easy to be distracted – so sometimes I go out and work at a local coffee shop called, rather aptly, 'The Novel Café.'

What are you working on next?
My next book is called 'Pleased To Meet Me'. It's a high-concept romantic comedy that follows the character of Charlotte Merryweather, a successful 35 year old, who through some inexplicable chance somehow manages to bump into her younger 21 year-old self. I'm working on it right now and it's due out January 2009. So far I'm having lots of fun writing it!! Here's the blurb for the back of the book.

If only I knew then, what I know now… Imagine if you could meet your younger self – what advice would you give yourself? What words of wisdom would you bestow? What lessons about life would you share? Start a pension? Don't give that idiot your phone-number? Wear sunscreen! For one girl, there's no need to imagine. She's about to find out for real…

You divide your time between NYC, London and LA which city do you get your ideas from?
Ooh, that's a hard one. I get my ideas from all over the place: conversations with friends, articles I read online, places I visit – oh – and a lot of daydreaming…. I daydream a lot!

Me and Mr Darcy is out now!

Picture supplied by Hodder and Stoughton press office

Monday, 27 August 2007

Daddy's Little Girls

The genius that is Tyler Perry just seems to get better and better. This writing, producing, directing and acting combo is proving to be the best thing to happen to Black films since Spike Lee. Perry's first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman became one of the most talked about films in 2002. Diary of a Mad Black Woman depicts the traumas of Helen, an African American women who comes to terms with a bitter divorce. This film put Tyler Perry on the map and wet the public's appetite for inspiring and uplifting stories on African American relationships. So it was no surprise when the follow up, Madea's Family Reunion was a box office success and now his new title, Daddy's Little Girls has been released to great critical acclaim.

Daddy's Little Girls is the story of Monty, played by Idris Elba, a hard working mechanic who is the doting father of three adorable little daughters. He is estranged from their mother as she is now living the life of drugs and crime with the local hood so Monty and his mother-in-law are raising the three girls while he works long hours at the garage to make ends meet. When Monty's mother-in-law dies he brings his daughters to live with him in his tiny apartment. Meanwhile he takes on a job as a driver for a snooty lawyer with the aim to buy a bigger apartment and provide his daughters with a better life. Unfortunately while he is out working a fire breaks out at his home and his daughters are brought to hospital. Although they are not hurt social services declare that his living arrangements are not fit to raise three children and award temporary custody to their mother. In order to get his beloved daughters back and away from a life of drugs Monty has to go to court. Enter Julia, played by Gabrielle Union who is the snooty lawyer whose whole life revolves around work. While climbing up the corporate ladder Julia seems to have misplaced her sense of humor as well as the ability to find a good man. When the Monty and Julia meet, sparks fly but not in the romantic sense. Julia dismisses Monty as a uncouth handy man and Monty writes Julia off as a stuck up prima dona. However, Monty's impending court case draws the two of them together and while working on getting Monty his kids back the two begin to open up and see what the other is really like.

Daddy's Little Girls is a real lushy romantic story but it is funny as well. Strangely it is the first film without Tyler Perry in it but the pairing of Elba and Union make up for it. These two possess real chemistry and complement each other in every way. Daddy's Little Girls also throws up the interesting topic of the class issue within African American relationships. This is articulated through Julia's friend's (Brenda and Cynthia) dismay at the relationship. "You are supposed to have fun with him, not fall for him." says a horrified Brenda. This film is just perfect to watch on a perfect night in, curled up on the sofa with some popcorn.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Life in the Fab Lane

Kimora Lee Simmons is fine; she has the looks, smarts and personality to be an iconic brand. In other words, girlfriend's got it going on. She is a successful model, CEO of a 'phat' fashion label called Baby Phat, author of a best selling book, mother of two cutsey mini me daughters and the ex wife of hip hop mogul, Russell Simmons. Kimora is all about pop culture so with reality TV being all the rage who is she (Kimora) to turn her nose down at her own reality show? Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane made its debut on the Style channel a few weeks ago. Now I do not know that much about Kimora, don't get me wrong I know exactly who she is; I have seen her guest appearances in films like Brown Sugar and Beauty Shop and read several articles on her. I have also read her book, Fabulosity - well I managed to get through three chapters before giving up the ghost. So after much talk about this show on blogsphere I was very curious to check it out. My first impressions on the show is that it is very large and the word bling comes to mind. Everything about the show is OTT from Kimora's chinzty furniture to her extensive Louis Vuitton luggage that is especially hand made and her huge mansion. However what stands out is Kimora's personality which can be described as loud, outgoing and very very dynamic. What is clear is that she accepts nothing less than 100% from her staff and when watching her berate them you could be forgiven for calling her a cow. A woman who decides that she is so busy that she needs to hire a third assistant and who yells out questions like 'Where is my Blackberry' and "Do you know if I am free for a meeting on Friday?" sounds like very high maintenance. Still she does have her endearing points; she is a loving and fun Mum and is very up front. Kimora does not suffer fools gladly and if she is not happy with something she will express it then and there. You do not get any bitchy comments and back stabbing from Kimora. Life in the Fab Lane is total indulgence and frivolous TV. Will I be tuning in to watch it next week? Hell yeah!!

Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane is on the Style Network on Sundays.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

The Personal Shopper

Annie Valentine has it all; gorgeous face and figure, two delightful children, a glamorous career at a swanky fashion store as a personal shopper and a stylish flat in lush Highgate. However there is a massive gap in Annie's life and despite all her trappings she has no one to share it with. Yes she has her wonderful family and friends but she just wishes she could find that special someone who she could curl up next to on the sofa. The problem is with life being so full on she can never find the time to look for the right man and all the guys that she has come across are complete duds. After going on one bad date too many Annie decides to take action to find Mr Wonderful and along the way finds out a bit more than she bargained for. I caught up with author, Carmen Reid to discuss her new book.

Our protagonist, Annie Valentine is quite a dynamic character isn't she? Single mother of two, ambitious, hardworking yet stylish, savvy and very endearing. Do you think she represents modern mothers today?
I love her! She's one of those people who will die trying! Whatever life throws at her, she just refuses to let it get her down for too long. Certainly, I think modern mothers will all relate to her frantically busy days.

What was the inspiration for this book? Did it have anything to do with fashionistas and personal shoppers being the latest trends?
I was shopping with a friend who needed a dress. She was in the changing room moaning about the size of her this, that and the next thing! Meanwhile I flitted about the shop bringing her all sorts of things and when she had that ‘Eureka! This is the one!’ moment… so did I! I think clothes shopping is such an intimate, bonding, psychologically revealing thing when women do it together. A personal shopper must find out all sorts of fascinating things about her clients, so I thought it would make a very interesting subject.

The revelation towards the end was quite a surprise, did you write the book with that in mind or did it just pan out?
Oh I definitely had that in mind. I plan the books out very carefully beforehand. Although there are still plenty of interesting decisions to make on the way, it’s essential to know where you are going.

What do you think of the term chick lit do you see it as insulting or a great definition for modern women's fiction?
No female I know wants to be called a chick, so I’m afraid I do see it as derogatory. For The Personal Shopper, I prefer the perfectly respectable film term, it’s a romantic comedy.

So many chick lit books have been turned into films what do you think about this? Do you think it is a positive step?
I’m not sure that so many have been turned into films! Lots have been optioned, but I can only think of The Devil Wears Prada film. Any actress will tell you that there is a prejudice against stories centering on 30-something women. But obviously, if your story makes it to the screen that is a huge step and very positive, especially for your bank balance!

If Personal Shopper was optioned for a film who can you see playing Annie?
I have no idea! Annie is a very real person in my head, it’s quite hard to translate her into an actress. It would have to be someone with loads of energy, enthusiasm and a certain vulnerability. Definitely not someone with a stick figure though, Annie has curves!

How do you get into fiction writing?
I’ve always been writing for myself since I was small. I took an English Literature degree then I worked as a newspaper journalist for quite a few years. All these things really helped the writing along. Then when I was 28, I left my job to go on an extended maternity leave and started writing my first novel. I was very lucky to find an agent and then a publisher quite quickly compared with some of the horror stories I’ve heard!

What other authors do you admire and why?
A list of my favourite authors has to include: John Irving, Hemmingway, Nancy Mitford, PG Woodehouse, Anne Tyler, JK Rowling, Annie Proulx, Mark Twain, Louise May Alcott. I like a really emotionally engaging book. But I also love a good plot and I will forgive any writer most sins if they make me laugh out loud. Dark, depressing, slow moving volumes are not for me and I’m not a fan of graphic violence or gore.

What advice would you give to budding authors out there?
Enjoy the writing, enjoy the re-writing. You are learning a craft and we all get better with practice. Hardly anyone achieves brilliance on their first attempt, despite what your Mum/ brother/ boyfriend says! Try and learn from your mistakes, try and learn from your rejections. If you want to write a book, make a plan for the whole book, write it all the way through, then go back and re-work. So many people grind to a standstill after polishing and re-polishing three perfect chapters and never get any further.

The life of a writer must be a busy one. Can you describe your typical day?
My life is busy because I have two children and a dog! But during school hours, I try to put everything else to the side and write. It is so easy to be distracted by emails, telephone calls, one thing and another. But writing is my day job, so it’s my priority to make time and above all peace for it to happen!

Where do you do most of your writing; desk, garden, coffee shop?
I have three venues, my desk at home, which is best at night. Then the university library, a total sanctuary as no one can even phone me there! I also like this big, quiet café near my home. I never take the laptop there, but when I’m re-reading manuscripts, this place is perfect as it’s nice to feel that I’m not in solitary confinement!

A small bird tells me (ie a press release) that you are working on a series of books inspired by a boarding school you attended. Can you tell me more about this and will it be like Malory Towers or St Clare's which was written by the great Enid Blyton?
The first school book is due out next summer (no title yet!). It centers on four girls at a posh Edinburgh girls’ school, so it is an intriguing and exclusive little world, but their concerns are very modern, the kind of things that most 21st century teens will relate to. Although I read many Famous Five books when I was young, they seemed old fashioned to me even then. (Very exciting plots though!) I did read a Malory Towers book recently to see what it was all about and I have to say that I thought it was fairly dreadful!

The Personal Shopper is available in paperback now. You can check out Carmen's website on

Picture supplied by Louise Page PR

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Because She Can

I guess it was inevitable following the huge success of The Devil Wears Prada that other books would follow suit. Because She Can which is written by Bridie Clark is dubbed the Devil Wears Prada of the publishing world. Claire Truman is a very talented and hard working assistant editor who primps novels for one of the most prestigious publishers in the city. She is also ambitious and keen to make editor so despite numerous warning she quits her cosy job and goes to work at a smaller publisher that is more successful. Grant Books is founded and run by the legendary Vivian Grant who is admired and feared by many in the industry. This role gives Claire everything she has ever wanted, a better salary, her own office and more importantly the coveted role as editor along with the clout to green light exciting projects. However there is always a cloud under a silver lining and pretty soon it becomes quite clear that working at Grant Books is not a piece of cake.

Like Lauren Weisberger, Bridie Clark was also employed in the industry she portrays in her book and alas had a tiresome boss who anyone in their right mind would have strangled. As Miranda Priestly is rumoured to be based on the Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, Vivian Grant is based on Judith Regan, a book publishing hot shot. When I picked up this book I will admit I was attracted to the fact that it was rather akin to Devil Wears Prada because I relish a great story about the trials and tribulations of a hard working employee whose life is made a complete and utter terror by her tyrant of a boss. Strangely enough I never rated the book, Devil Wears Prada because in my opinion it was badly written and the main protagonist was an utter bore. Because She Can goes along similar lines here, although it is has a great narrative, unfortunately the characters leave very little to desire. In particular the lead character Claire who is largely forgettable and a complete doormat.

The boss from hell scenario is taken one step further in Because She Can and the events in the book are totally over the top. Vivian is not only verbally and physically abusive to her staff but is quite clearly derranged bordering on psychotic. While Miranda Priestly's icy manner stemmed from the snobbery that was enclaved in the world of glossy publishing, this book gives us no incite as to why Vivian behaves in the atrocious way she does. In fact the more abuse she piles onto her staff the less you start to care. I doubt if I would have flinched had Vivian pulled out a gun and shot all her staff.

If you want to read a book that depicts the publishing world more realistically then I would highly recommend Bestseller which was written by the late and great, Olivia Goldsmith who also penned The First Wives Club. This book is a real trouper and shows a wide range of engaging characters who are a mixture of good and bad.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Ten Years Younger

Can somebody please tell me why is everyone hating on Nicky Hambleton-Jones aka NH-J? The presenter of Ten Years Younger has been on the receiving end of some brutal attacks in blogsphere since her programme, returned to our screens last week. Take this scathing article penned by Kathryn Flett in The Guardian where she describes NH-J as neither warm nor empathic and then our mates at TV Scoop had to get in on the action and called NH-J a gruesome fashion Nazi.

Ten Years Younger is kind of like an extreme version of Extreme Makeover where Nicky totally revamps a haggard looking female (occasionally male) with the aim of shedding ten years off their age. The transformation is totally amazing and you have to see it to believe it but then considering the amount of work that they have to endure how could they not look good? We are talking cosmetic surgery in the name of botox and chemical peels, basically whatever it takes to sap the wrinkles out. Then there is teeth whitening, new veneers or braces and this is all before they go anywhere near hair, clothes and make up. I really like this programme and find it very entertaining, I also love NH-J and I find her endearing. Her advice is honest and straight to the point and her results are fantastic and more importantly she leaves her charges looking and no doubt feeling like a million dollars.

Flett and co have criticised her tactics of humiliating her charges by parading them on the street and asking strangers their age. Ahem, excuse me but the perceived age of the charge is one of the elements of the programme and a crucial part at that. Of course it must be a dent in the ego to hear people say you look like you are 50 when you are only 33 but if you have gone so far down the road that you stop caring about your looks then I doubt that you will be too devastated about what complete strangers think. Anyway the flip side is that the charges get to flaunt their new look and make the public eat their words. Don't hate the playa, hate the game. 10 Years Younger is simply compelling and a much superior programme than the insipid How to Look Naked which is a blatant rip off.

Ten Years Younger airs on Thursday at 8.00pm on Channel 4

You can check out NH-J's cute website Tramp2Vamp here

Sunday, 19 August 2007

How to be a Property Developer

I have always been into property so I tuned into the return of How to be a Property Developer on Five last week. The show follows the lead of Channel 4's legendary Property Ladder but instead of having Sarah Beeny handing out tactful comments we have property expert, Gary McCausland slating the aspiring property gurus. The series which is set over 10 weeks sees two teams attempt to make a fortune buying, developing and selling various properties. Handed a mere £250,000 both teams set about trying to make their fortune in bricks and mortar. Paula and Lynsey are tough talking ladies based in Scotland who have given up work to concentrate on their passion which is property. They have decided to start with what they know and will be investing their £250,0o0 on a flat in Edinburgh. Best mates Dan and Daniel are two London professionals who see property as a way to finance their lush lifestyles as well as meeting their goal to become millionaires. How to be a Property Developer made its debut two years ago and proved to be very popular and is now back for a third series. The programme fits in well among Five's other quality property programmes such as Getting on the Property Ladder and the iconic House Doctor.

How to be a Property Developer airs on Five on Thursdays at 8.00pm.

Picture provided from Five press office

Sunday, 12 August 2007


Three ladies by the name of Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce are to blame for the use of the word Bootylicious. Yes that's right, the trio once known as Destiny's Child popularised the term with the release of their catchy single in 2002, which I must admit still sounds pretty damm good. Taking the lead from this innovation is a cute book called Beautylicious (exclamation mark) The Black Girl's Guide to the Fabulous Life. I came across this book last year while browsing through, I was feeling pretty low at the time and needed something to boost my self esteem so I decided to buy it. It turned out to be a great investment; Beautyicious which is written by Jenyne M. Raines, a former beauty associate at Essence magazine (lifestyle magazine for African American women) is packed with tips on how to look and feel like a million dollars. Raines' mantra on beautylicious is that it is manifesto for going through life with a little swagger, a dash of sauciness and a lot of grace. Using women such as Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll and Pam Grier as role models, the book is divided into 10 sections that cover fashion tips, perk me up treats, beauty basics as well as smart entertaining and dating rules. The guide is full of elegant illustrations of gorgeous sisters and comes in a wonderful pink package. This book is beautylicious in everyway and dares you to be a diva in the best possible way.

The Salon

I am a great fan of the film Barbershop and it's sequel Barbershop 2: Back in Business which stars rapper, Ice Cube. Set in a barbers in Chicago, where Black men go to the get anything but a haircut, the two films reflect the trials and tribulation of the staff who work in south side Chicago. Calvin Palmer played by Ice Cube manages the shop which was handed down to him by his father and in doing so also tries to manage the lives of his employees. Screened in 2002, these films demonstrated how important barbers and hairdressers were to African Americans; they were sanctuaries and havens for them to congregate, gossip, laugh and debate. Barbershop 1 & 2 were written by Mark Brown, my fellow compatriot who went on to write and direct The Salon which is the female equivalent of the Barbershop. Brown also wrote the play version of The Salon with Shelley Garrett which ran for a year on stage. This film stars Vivica A. Fox who came to fame from her roles in Set it Off and Soul Food and - oh yeah - being 50 Cents main squeeze at one stage. The delectable Vivica plays Jenny, a single mum who is running a successful beauty shop called The Beauty Shop while raising her young son. Her staff include a wide variety of characters such as Lashaunna played by Kym Whitley who as sassy as they come and takes no bullshit, Trina played by Taral Hicks who is a shameless gold digger, Brenda played by Monica Calhoun who has no self esteem and is bullied by her cruel boyfriend, Patrick who is played by Terrence Howard. There is D.D played by De'Angelo Wilson who is as camp as they come and Ricky played by Dondre Whitfield who has an aversion to gay men.

The film starts on an ordinary day and shows the women getting ready for work. It becomes very clear from the offset that Jenny is a confident, attractive and intelligent woman who is raising her son to have values and self worth. Her dismay and outrage when finding out her son has been sent home from school for fighting is clearly articulated to the viewer as well as to her son. The scenes in the hairdressers are non stop hilarious and we are treated to one joke after another. From D.D's campy catwalk dance when he enters the store, to the discussions of Halle Berry's Oscar winning performance in Monsters Ball and the touchy subject of interracial relationships. The film throws in a decoy with the entrance of Tami, played by Brooke Burns (one of Ricky's clients) a cookie cutter blond who is into Black culture in every way much to the disgust of Trina. The ordinary day turns into a drama when the Beauty Shop is threatened with closure because of plans to pull it down and build a parking lot. On a street which is infested with prostitutes, drug dealers and gangs, the salon is by far the most positive figure and Jenny is hell bent on making sure that it stays where it is. She enlists the help of Michael played by Darrin Dewit Henson who works as a lawyer and a gorgeous one at that to help her save her salon.

The Salon is not to be confused with the film called Beauty Shop which stars Queen Latifah who coincidentally or not was also in Barbershop 2. Both movies are set on the screenplay, The Salon and both have very similar story lines and were made in the same year but from what I can find out, Beauty Shop got the green light and was made into a movie while The Salon was left on the shelf for a few years and recently has been put out on DVD. I saw Beauty Shop a few years back and really liked it but The Salon blew me away. It is funny, sassy and full of great dialogue and despite the panning it has got from the media (what the hell do they know?) it is a really uplifting film.

Monday, 6 August 2007

The Fashionista Diaries

I have just finished watching the first episode of what I reckon will be the show of the year; The Fashionista Diaries. This fly on the show reality series is a combo of The Apprentice and Ugly Betty. Set in the Big Apple, The Fashionista Diaries follows six twentysomethings trying to make their mark in the ultra competitive world of fashion. Each one of them is placed as a lowly assistant at a prestigious company where they try to land a job. There is Andrew and Rachel who are placed at Jane magazine, a plucky publication for real women. Rachel, 22 from New York is a complete mag hag and knows Jane from back to front and has lots of enthusiasm and initiative. Her colleague Andrew, 24 from Philadelphia is a pretty boy who relishes being the only male in the group of females but unfortunately his confidence does not match his talents. Andrew seems to lack the savviness that it takes to make it in the magazine world; in their meeting with Editor-in-Chief, Brandon Holley both Rachel and Andrew are asked for their opinions on Jane. While Rachel wows Brandon with her knowledge on the brand, Andrew not only admits his ignorance about the publication but commits a faux pau by saying that his favourite mag is GQ. Not good!!

Across the city in the ditzy world of fashion PR, Nicole and Bridget have been placed at Seventh House PR a prestigious company that represents celebrities and fashion designers. Seventh House PR is also the land of the pretty as Nicole finds out very quickly when she is subjected to a public dressing down from director, Mandie Erickson for committing the crime of wearing flip flops to work. Now I would never wear flip flops to work but I really wish that Mandie had taken Nicole to one side and spoken to her about her attire instead of humiliating her like that. Now lets talk about Nicole, at 27 she is the eldest of the pack but to me she acts a lot younger. She just seems to lack so much confidence, unlike all the others she does not have a background in fashion as she was on her way to becoming a psychologist. Nothing wrong with that at all and actually very commendable, except that she keeps going on and on about it and lamenting about her lack of experience. That and the fact that she is from Queens. Sometimes you wish she'd just get over it. Her colleague, Bridget, 25 from Pittsburgh is as different from her as you can imagine, she oozes confidence bordering on arrogance. Bridget is full of catty remarks and put downs and seems to be on her way to becoming the villain of the show. Well that is unless Mandie beats her to it. Frankly, Mandie's unprofessionalism astonishes me, it was clearly not enough for her to humiliate Nicole on her first day but she also decided to badmouth her to Bridget when Nicole did a no show at the end of the programme. Shamesless!

However there are some endearing characters like Kathleen Pierce, the Vice President of Global Communications who own Flirt Cosmetics. She is talented, tough when she needs to be but very tactful when she deals with people. Kathleen's assistants are the no-nonsense Janjay and the outspoken Tina who are poles apart in personality and appearances. Janjay, 22 from Brooklyn is the quiet unassuming grafter whose determined confidence earns her the respect of her peers while Tina is a giggly 24 year old from Long Island who says it like it is. Interesting combo but one that is heading for a showdown very soon. This show is fantastic and totally compulsive viewing. I watched it online on Sunday and I already need another fix. If you are a fan of Project Runway or Project Catwalk then you will love this.

The Fashionista Diaries airs on Wednesday on Soapnet at 9pm, you can watch it online or download it from iTunes. By the way the breaking news is that Jane magazine has folded so Rachel and Andrew will be moved over to CosmoGirl and the magazine's demise will be documented. It should make very interesting viewing and as they say, 'The revolution will be accessorized.'

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Simone Williams

What do you get when you blend the originality and delicacy of designer pieces with the accessibility of high street chic? The answer is a delightful fashion label called Simone Williams whose latest collection has been inspired by the ultra glamour goddess herself, Marilyn Monroe. Using leather strips as her trademark, Williams produces a selection of delectable dresses that any lady would be proud to put on her back. Looking for that special dress for a cocktail party or a dinner or a posh do then look no further. Simone Williams is owned, designed, packaged and managed by the dynamic duo of Simone Williams and Ronke Lawal. With just three years under their belts, these two feisty women have a lot to celebrate as they have just signed a deal to have the label sold in Moborak, a chic boutique based in Leeds. I caught up with the ladies to find out what's all and good in the glamorous life of fashion.

How did the two of you meet?
We met on the council estate that we grew up on – in our local park at around 8 years of age.

Who performs what role in your partnership?
Simone is the creative vision behind the label, she designs and makes the pieces as well as styling for shoots and fashion shows. I am the business-minded entity – focusing on the organisation, marketing and branding of the label.

What are the brand qualities of your label?
Strong sense of femininity and sensuality make up the core vision behind the Simone Williams brand. It’s the wearability of each garment that reflects Simone’s desire to celebrate the beauty of womanhood, hoping that any woman that sees a Simone Williams dress will see herself in it.

What do you get your ideas from when designing your items?
Simone gets her ideas from everything and anything – a simple flower in the garden or the city landscape can excite her creative energy and drive her to design something amazing.

Which designers do you admire?
Roberto Cavalli and Oscar de la Rente

What is your take on celebrities who are now designing collections?
Its an interesting new trend, the main idea being following a desire to dress like the celebrity designing the clothes. It can take away attention from new and raw talent on the market however fashion is a business which can be quite biased; focusing more on who you know than what you know. We feel that regardless of this fact quality and talent always shines through eventually.

What are your grand plans for Simone Williams?
To take the brand to the international arena – this is more than just another fashion label. We’re here to stay and really want the whole world to one day be able to see this home grown talent from Hackney, East London . We would love to be able to take part in the world Fashion Weeks and supply major international boutiques and stores. It can only get bigger and better from this point onwards.

Where can people buy your collection?
They can log onto and as of next week Mobarak – 1 Harrogate Road, Leeds.

Picture from Simone Williams