Saturday, 30 April 2011

Welcome to International Chick Lit Month

Chick Lit is defined as a type of post-feminist or second-wave feminism that went beyond female-as-victim to include fiction that covered the breadth of female experiences, including love, courtship and gender.
May not only marks the end of Spring but the start of the first ever International Chick Lit Month which is a celebration of Chick Lit. A website has been set up specifically to mark the event which will consist of guests posts by authors, tips on how to write that novel and get it published and authors choosing their favourite Chick Lit books. Organised by Chicklit Club, Chick Lit is Not Dead and Novelicious it looks like May will be one hell of a month. Chick Lit often gets a bad rap from what I class as cultural snobs or those who are too short sighted to see that it is far more than fluffy pink covers. To me Chick Lit is a genre that embraces modern femininity; it covers issues that young women face such as challenges in the workplace, friendship, personal growth, family drama as well as romances. The term really came to fruition in 1988 as college slang for a course called female literary tradition and in 1995 it was used in an anthology called Chick Lit; Postfeminist Fiction. In a nutshell Chick Lit are books that features a female protagonist whose womanhood is heavily themitzed in the plot. Titles such as Bridget Jones's Diary, Sex and the City and The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing helped to establish the term and push it into the mainstream which got the publishing industry on board and behind the genre. However, the original Chick Lit author was Jane Austen who penned Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and of course Emma which which have been adapted into TV shows as well as films. Nowadays Chick Lit has really grown up and been divided into sub genres such as Mommy Lit, Career Lit, Chick Noir, Expose Lit and Lad Lit.  Over the month I will be doing a Chick Lit special which will feature a whole treat of reviews and stories on the genre. There will be a review of Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin which has been made into a film and I will be comparing both book and film. I will be asking fellow bloggers to talk about their favorite Chick Lits and there will be a review of Lindsey Kelk's digital short story, Jenny Lopez Has Had a Bad Week. So join me as we celebrate this fabulous month.

To kick off the month I am giving away four Sweet Valley High t-shirts, all you need to do is email me at telling me what your favorite Chick Lit book is - please put International Chick Lit Month in the subject field. The deadline is 31st May.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Company Magazine The Reader Issue...Starring You!

Over the last couple of years Company magazine has gone from strength to strength. It is no longer that beige magazine that jostled for position on the shelf racks alongside Cosmopolitan and Glamour. After launching the magnificent High Street Edit last year to much aplomb, Company is now up there with the heavyweights pulling punches. I came across the May issue of Company yesterday while doing my weekly shop at Sainsburys and it immediately caught my eye not just for the fresh design but for the special Reader Issue. Company launched the idea of a model free issue three years ago as a way of featuring women with realistic body shapes. They have joined forces with River Island to create the Company Casting Call where 12 readers where chosen out of thousands to model in the publication wearing clothes from River Island. Two were even chosen for the cover with the winner featured inside in a cover spread. T4 presenter, Jameela Jamil writes a fabulous first person story encouraging young women to embrace their differences as she recounts on her painful childhood when she was bullied. This was a really inspiring piece that will resonate with lots of young girls out there, it certainly did with me. There is a feature on three women who are holding down several jobs in order to survive the economic climate and I am not just talking about domestic jobs either. For instance one lady is working as a teacher, singer, songwriter and journalist. Talk about keeping busy.
The Reader Issue also contains an intriguing piece on the how your birth order can effect your relationship. Also a quirky story featuring three guys discussing their girlfriend"s wardrobe and telling us what they think of it. Of course there are the odd celebrity interviews with Gossip Girl's, Leighton Meester, a short Q&A with Katy B, an intimate interview with Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Lopez is featured discussing beauty. My favourite piece is the interiors section where handbag designer, Hannah Griffiths show us round her like retro-kitsch flat which is simply to die for. Overall, Company The Reader Issue is a very sweet deal and it is really lovely to see readers being featured in stylish but yet genuine way. Next month is all about festivals as in which ones to go to, which artists to see and more importantly what the hell to wear. Now I am not a festivals person but must admit that the issue sounds appealing. With their new mobile site and their app for iPads, Company is certainly on fire.

Company: The Reader Issue...Starring You! is available to buy in the shops now.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sweet Valley High Confidential

Growing up as a teen in the 80s, Sweet Valley High was my ultimate favourite book series. I was hungry for stories about teens whether they were realistic or aspirational so it was like a dream come true when the launch of the series was announced 1983. The saga of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their glam friends gave me many hours of entertainment. Sweet Valley High ran for twenty years in which the twins hardly aged.and there were even spin-off series about the twins when they were in High School and also when they were at college. I was not alone with my love affair with the Wakefield twins judging by the sales of the books and since the pending arrival of Sweet Valley Confidential was announced hundreds of fellow bloggers have come out to declare their love. The premise of the series is that Elizabeth was the kind and caring twin who is in a steady relationship with basketball high school star, Todd Wilkins. Elizabeth was a gifted writer and her side kick was the geeky Enid Rollins. Jessica on the other was selfish, manipulative and kind of shallow. She was head cheerleader and her interests consist of flirting, socialising and gossiping. Her inner circle comprised of the snooty Lila Fowler and catty Cara Walker. Despite their huge different personalities both twins did love each other dearly and were very close to their family unit of Alice and Ned who is Mama and Papa Wakefield and older brother Steven. Life in Sweet Valley has been very quiet since 2003 so I was really surprised to hear that Francine Pascal had written another title about the twins in their 20s. The release of the book last month is the US sent Twitter into meltdown and Francine was all over the net giving interview after interview. I decided that I needed to get my hands on a copy to see what my favourite blonde and blue/green eyed twins are up to.

Sweet Valley Confidential starts off in New York with Elizabeth coming back to her empty apartment after a long day at work. The phone rings and it is a voicemail from Jessica begging her to speak to her. Elizabeth ignores it. It becomes apparent that something is very wrong and all is not well with the twins. It turns out that Todd has left Elizabeth for Jessica - yes Jessica - betraying her sister in the most awful way. Elizabeth fled to NYC to escape the humiliation and lick her wounds. Jessica and Todd are living together in Sweet Valley and planning their wedding while Elizabeth plans her revenge. Also Elizabeth is no longer best friends with Enid Rollins in fact her bestie is Bruce Patman who she actually could not stand in school. As Elizabeth carves out a name for herself in NYC she finds it hard to let go of the pain and anger that she is harbouring against her twin and ex boyfriend so she hatches up a plan to make them pay. So I guess you all want to know one thing - was this book as good as I expected it be? Hell yes! Time may have moved on for us and Elizabeth and Jessica but Francine Pascal"s ability to tell a good story has not, Sweet Valley Confidential had me gripped from beginning to the end.

I love the way they have taken the book into the 21st century with splattering of pop culture with mentions of Blackberrys, Britney Spears and Facebook. Ok some of it was a tad clumsy but the effect was great. Moreover we get to see more character development with Elizabeth and Jessica; while the original series was very black and white with Elizabeth being the good twin  and Jessica being the bad one, this new book shows the good and bad traits in both. We witness Elizabeth being bad and devious and also learn that Jessica has a heart and can be very selfless. I have read a few blog reviews and a lot of people have been dissing the book because of its massive inaccuracies in the characters names and events. I will admit that I did not even notice these things but I guess it shows how long ago it was since I read the book, either that or I am getting really old. I really did enjoy this book and I can describe it as meeting an old school friend and catching up on the good old days despite the fact that both of your lives have moved on. Now I cannot wait to see the movie. Roll on 2012 and the Diablo Cody effect.

Check out a couple of wicked videos about the Sweet Valley High phenomenon. The first one is the trailer for the new book and the second one is about the cultural impact of the series.

Sweet Valley Confidential is available to buy on amazon.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Retro TV: Dawson"s Creek

I do love my teen programmes; The OC, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and 90210 but no show defined the teen genre more than Dawson's Creek. The show was sort of based on the life of its creator, Kevin Williamson who created the Scream series and The Vampire Diaries. Williamson who was at the time Hollywood's wunderkid was approached to create a teen TV series after studio bosses read his witty script for Scream and Williamson described his efforts as Some Kind of Wonderful meets My So-Called Life meets Pump up the Volume meets James at 15 meets Little House in the PrairieDawson's Creek revolves around Dawson Leery played by James Van Der Beek, an aspiring film-maker who more or less had the perfect life; doting parents, great best friends and an idyllic life in a seaside town called Capeside. Dawson is an eternal optimist who firmly believes in that little thing called love and is a passionate Steven Spielberg fan. His close friends consist of gal pal, Joey Potter played by Katie Holmes, who he has spent practically every memorable moment with since his whole life. Their blissful friendship hits a rocky path when they start to drift apart and move into adulthood. Dawson's guy pal is Pacey Witter played by Joshua Jackson who is about as different from Dawson as you can get. Pacey is irresponsible, outspoken, restless, reckless and very funny and he is a chronic underachiever who uses his sarcasm to disguise his unhappy childhood. Then there is also newcomer, Jen Lindley played by Michelle Williams who has moved to the town from New York who strikes up a friendship with Dawson which leads to conflict with Joey. Later on in the series the four friends are joined by brother and sister, Jack and Andie McPhee played by Kerr Smith and Meredith Monroe.
There was no doubt that the relationship between Joey and Dawson was very special; you know the type where she would sneak into his room by climbing up a ladder and they would watch movies all night on his bed? The two of them were soul mates who would go on to become lovers and then greatest friends. Dawson's Creek covered a lot of heavyweight issues such as teenage sex, abuse, alcoholism, homosexuality all mixed up with teen angst.  The show ran for six series during the period of 1998 and 2003 and is credited as defining a generation. What made the show stand out was the impressive dialogue they would use to converse in. It was rather akin to Shakespeare with long prose and expressive verbs. When I first started watching the show it took me a while to get into it but once I did boy was I hooked. Dawson's Creek really had a lovely charm about it especially the childhood friendships, rites of passage and comprehensive dialogue. It may not have been as glamorous as Gossip Girl or as cool as The OC but it held a sense of warmth that the other shows lacked. You really felt that you knew Dawson and co and really lived through their trials and tribulations. Dawson's Creek ended in 2003 with a special length episode and even though a lot of time has passed since then I now watch the lives of the actors from the series with interest and fondness. James Van Der Beek has gone on to act in films and TV shows and he is now a father and on his second marriage, Katie Holmes is now Mrs Tom Cruise and as well as having a very stylish little daughter she has herself a very stellar acting career, Michelle Williams also has a daughter by the late Heath Ledger and is now one of the most respected actresses in Hollywood and Joshua Jackson has done a fair bit of acting himself and is now happily dating Diane Kruger.

The show is now being repeated on Sony TV on Wednesday at 7pm.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bill Cunningham New York

Forget The Satorialist, Face Hunter. Tommy Ton and Garance Dore - 80 year old Bill Cunningham aka The Bill is the original street style photographer. Since he has been shooting fashionistas from the late 70s he has earned the respect of the heavy hitters in New York. Bill started his career as a writer on The Chicago Tribune and began taking pictures of well dressed people on the streets of New York. He got his big break when he took a chance picture of Greta Garbo which was published in The Times in 1978 and went on to become a regular series. This was a huge first because usually images of famous people needed permission before they could be run. Since then Bill  has gone on to take countless photographs of celebrities, socialites and fashion personalties in Manhattan, in a career that has amassed around 40 to 50 years. He has entertained the public with his columns in The Times Style section, One the Street and Evening Hours. Some say that he has the history of the last 50 years of New York right in the palm of his hands. More remarkable is that the fact that a lot of his images have never been published.

A few months ago I came across a few blog posts about Bill Cunningham which got my attention and it was only after a while that I realised that a film had been made about him. Bill Cunningham, New York documents the life of the much celebrated photographer and the impact he has made on pop culture. It shows an artist at work and how he is much more than a creator of images but really an anthropological historian. After all this is a man who is revered by the likes of Anna Wintour who made the inoccuous comment, "We all get dressed up for Bill." We get to see the real man behind the lens as well as his humble lifestyle which consists of a simple apartment and him dashing around Manhattan on his precious bike. The documentary is directed by Richard Press who has written and directed many award winning short films. He decided to make the film due to the fascination he had about Bill as a person and how he chose to live his life. The film was released in the US on 16 March and has picked up many awards but there is no news about a UK release date.

For more information about the film, check out the website.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

I've got to admit at school I felt very much like a square peg in a round hole. While all my female classmates were fussing over clothes, make up and boys I was more interested in books and IT. I was also very shy and socially awkward which made school a bit of a chore. Still the good thing about this is that I blossomed in my late 20s and early 30s and now I am the kick ass diva that you all know and love. Looking back I realise that I was not alone and around the globe there were lots of quirky Black girls and guys who did not fit the status quo. So I was very intrigued where I came across a series called The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. The web series is the tale of Issa Rae who is making her way through life, work and love. Isaa is a quirky character who we get to see muddling through the awkward moments in her life and dealing with the insecure, stupid and angry thoughts that go on in her head. We also see her getting into mishaps while driving her car and also dealing with annoying colleagues at work. Issa is an actress and film-maker who came up with the idea two years ago as an outlet to share her own awkward moments after realising that these moments were not just unique to her but universal.
Face it we don't see many of these characters on the screen and with the likes of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West waving the flag for Geek Chic hopefully they will become more mainstream.

Check out the trailer above and the first episode below.

You can watch The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl here.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Social Media World Forum

Social media marketing to me is what direct marketing was in the 90s. A new medium comes into the foray and everyone jumps on it because it is new and sexy. Social Media consists of elements such as Facebook. Twitter, LinkedIn. Flickr. FourSquare, MySpace and Quora. Over the last year or so it has been taken seriously and more and more companies are using it as part of their marketing mix because it allows them to interact with their customers and get their messages out there. To meet this growing trend various events have been put on around the world to inform people on how to use the tools. In February there was Social Media Week which took place at various venues around London where I picked up quite a few tips. So I was pretty excited about the Social Media World Forum which took place last week at Olympia. The conference is produced by events company, Sixdegrees who put on the event in cities such as New York, Cape Town, Singapore and Dubai with the aim of engaging, debating and understanding the latest issues in social media marketing. The two days consisted of presentations and workshops with key speakers from huge hitting brands such as Facebook, ecademy, Klout, Microsoft and CNN and they explored issues such as trends in social media, integrating social media into marketing, monitoring and measuring, media and PR, applying social media marketing to B2B and social shopping.  Entrance to the event was free but there was a charge to attend each session but there was a Social Media Hub where was free for all where visitors could listen to companies talk about topics such as online privacy and security, social media monitoring and the impact of SEO. There was also an exhibition where a lot of companies were flogging there monetizing and measuring tools, recruitment consultants and social media agencies.

I attended the first day and I found it to be very insightful from a social media perspective and the amount of techie companies exhibiting various tools gave me an idea of where the market is going.  After a quick wander round the exhibition I had loaded myself down with an abundance of information. The event had a really nice vibe about it that had the sense that something new and exciting was about to take off. Also the talks in the Social Media Hub were very thought provoking; some were better than others but overall the quality was good. Social Media World Forum was indeed a very slick event that embraced the coming of age of the genre. Five things I learnt from the Social Media World Forum are below:

1. Location sites are going to be a real force over the coming years with the tie-ins to companies and incentives.

2. Your online reach will be invaluable in order to get the attention of advertisers hence the success of companies such as Klout and Reputation Online.

3. Listening to what people are saying about your or your client"s brand will be easier to do with the amount of tools that are now available on the market.

4. Facebook and Google will fight it out to rule the world and only the strongest will remain standing.

5. No-one really know what they are doing as the genre is so new so everyone is faking it.
    You can get more information about the Social Media World Forum here.

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    The Big Fashion Wardrobe

    Like most ladies I have always yearned for one of those huge walk-in wardrobes that holds all your clothes, shoes and bags. Rather like the one that lucky Carrie Bradshaw had in her bachalorette apartment and the lush one that Big built her in the first movie. Well those clever people at Westfield London have come up with a genius idea to host a vibrant room that contains a massive walk in wardrobe smack in The Atrium. Brands like DKNY Jeans, Firetrap, French Connection, Jaeger, L.K. Bennett, House of Fraser, NW3, Reiss, River Island and Ted Baker are displaying their wares while welcoming their customers to a unique experience. All the stores are offering exclusive discounts and some wonderful prizes are up for grabs. The concept of The Big Fashion Wardrobe is that fashionistas can experience every stage of looking fabulous from being in an opulence wardrobe full of clothes and accessories to getting a fabulous new hairdo and a fantastic makeover. After that customers will be able to show off their new look in a photo shoot. Added to that there will also be fashion blogging writing workshops hosted by a few popular bloggers which took place in the swish blogging suite. If that is not enough the day will be topped off with a fashion show. I popped down to Westfield yesterday to have a look at the event and I was very impressed, the organisers have really gone all out to make it a really seductive event for shoppers. This is where Westfield stands out ahead of all the other shopping centres such as Bluewater, Lakeside and The Trafford Centre. The theme here was glamorous opulence, whether you were delving into the rails of designer brands like DKNY Jeans or high street stores such as French Connection you were privy to the same euphoric experience that shopping for that special outfit can give you. Westfield London does it again!

    The Big Fashion Wardrobe takes place at Westfield London till Sunday 3rd April. You can check out the website here.

    PS: While I was impressed with The Big Fashion Wardrobe I cannot say the same with the PR team. I sent an email asking for a press release to be sent to me so I could cover the event but heard nothing back. I did not even get a reply to the tweet I sent, so much for engaging with customers. Anyway despite being ignored by the PR company I decided to take myself off to the event myself and I am glad I did.

    PPS: I would like to add that after my outburst I received a lovely email from Propellernet who do the PR for Westfield apologising for the breakdown in communication and inviting me down to the event. Sadly I was unable to attend but I do appreciate them reaching out to me and trying to make amends.

    Welcome to my World

    Juggling full time studies and a blog while growing a media empire can be quite a struggle but Wande Alugo manages it smoothly. Her blog, Wande's World is the go to place for anyone who is interested in hair, make up, skincare and fashion. On here you can find reviews on products, events and the lowdown on the new make up looks. Wande has been blogging for a good few years and describes herself as the big sister who hands out valuable advice on how to look hot for any occasion. When she is not blogging, Wande hosts a lifestyle show on YouTube that covers topical issues such as beauty, fashion and random rambles. The show is also named Wande"s World and slots into her master plan on building her own brand on different platforms. Wande describes herself as a techno geek and admits to being married to her Blackberry. She took five minutes out with me to discuss the beauty of blogging.

    What made you start blogging?
    Funnily enough when I started I had no idea about the beauty blogging community, I constantly used to read up on news on beauty information sites etc. However when I would constantly get messages, phone calls, texts and the works about make up questions, and how to do this and that, so I started writing about makeup, and doing occasional You Tube videos.

    Describe the concept behind Wande's World.
    I’m often told I live in my own world - which is true - so I decided to base my blog around things I love, and before you know it my blog was a beauty blog and slowly embracing my fashion sense too. The concept behind Wande’s World is that literally anything I love or have experienced goes on my blog, simple as can be.

    Over the last year beauty bloggers have really made their mark in blogsphere, how do you think they will continue to push the boundaries over the next few years?
    I know right! I actually based on dissertation on the impact of beauty bloggers, which was amazing to see the perception of bloggers. It will continue to grow and beauty brands will listen to us more, and magazines will not be as important as it is today or used to be. Hey don't shoot the messenger, it's what I found from my dissertation lol. Evidently, brands are taking more consideration now, I mean where's the MAC/Rodarte collection? Not what I wanted but I’m just saying.

    How do you get your inspiration for your posts?
    Inspiration can come from anything, from problems I face to problems friends face, or simply just nature. I once did an eye shadow tutorial of the sunset, simply because it is so beautiful.

    What do you do when you are not working on your blog?
    I’m currently a final year student (its over in two months, so cant wait) so working on Uni work, or working on some sort of marketing or PR project as I freelance every now and then. Another part is socialising, which I adore doing.

    Describe a typical day in the life of Wande.
    Wake, read the bible on my iPhone, or meditate on something I read. Check and respond to emails, check Facebook, check Twitter, check You Tube, check blogs that have been updated. On Uni days obviously I go to lectures, which is normally followed by some blogging event. Then off home to work on uni work of some sort. Check Twitter, and check and reply emails again. That's the cycle till I go to bed at crazy o’clock.

    What are your favourite glossy magazines?
    Vogue, Grazia and Elle

    Name five blogs that you read religiously.
    Mouldy Fruit, London Beauty Queen, Dulce Candy, Lipglossipping and Beauty Fulfilled. Goodness that was hard. I read hundreds on blogs though.

    How do you see your blog evolving over the next two years?
    Hmmm I haven't really planned but I hope to do more personalised posts and be more reader inspired.

    You can read Wande's blog.

    Follow her on Twiter.