Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jared Leto-- In Defense of His Fashion

Being labeled “worst dressed” in the media is a compliment. It means you don’t fit society’s standard and aren’t afraid to be completely ridiculous and free with your fashion choices. Of course, there are mistakes in fashion and criticism can be helpful to those who struggle in finding their true style. But often times the celebrities who top worst dressed lists are being criticized because their unique sense of style doesn’t fit the norm of how the rest of the world dresses. From Bjork’s iconic Oscar swan dress to Lady Gaga’s VMA meat dress, some of the most unique and brilliant personalities have been categorized as terrible acts of fashion, simply because they’re not playing by the rules society has set when it comes to what’s acceptable in the expression of one’s appearance.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned rock stars twice my age, my admiration for rebels who wear sunglasses indoors, and  the fact that I would be featured on all the worst dressed lists if I were a celebrity. That being said, it would only make sense if I made a post on one of my favorite male celebrities; Jared Leto, who was given the ultimate honor of being named “Worst Dressed Man in the World” for all of 2011 by GQ Magazine, claiming that he looked “extravagantly terrible all year long”.

Just to refresh your memory, let us briefly recap Jared’s career. We must first appreciate the fact that his talent and versatility as an artist is a rarity. He was a teen idol in the 90s, playing Jordan Catalano in the TV series “My So Called Life”, and then went on to land roles in numerous films such as “Girl Interrupted”, “Fight Club”, and “Requiem for a Dream” where his skills as an actor earned him critical acclimation. Even though Jared’s talent on screen was enough to provide him with a long and successful career as an actor, that didn’t stop him from taking a risk with his artistic abilities when he formed the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars in 1998. With three successful albums, world tours, music videos in which he has produced, written and directed, and a place in the Guinness Book of World records for “Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band”, 30 Seconds to Mars has proven, and continues to be, a shining light in the music industry. Jared’s passion and devotion towards whatever he sets his mind to is proof that dreams are possible, no matter how out of sight they may seem, as he has gained great success in multiple categories within the world of showbiz.

As well as earning worldwide recognition for his talents, Jared’s fashion choices have also given him quite a lot of headlines in the media. Critics seem to have a hard time understanding Jared’s style choices, which leads many of them to just simply poke fun of his style in general. Criticism for his fashion generally falls along the lines of things like this;  “Leto's always the most wealthy-looking homeless person in the room”, “Jared Leto – once cool, now offending eyeballs worldwide.”, and “Oh, Jared Leto. Once upon a time you were the thing that teenage girls dreamed of most. Now you just look like a homeless version of Inspector Gadget.”

GQ is the leader right now in the category of Jared Leto fashion criticism, as “Worst Dressed Man in the World” is quite an astounding claim for them to have made. Ironically, GQ Germany gave Jared the “Style Man of the Year” award in 2011, proving that the world (and especially GQ) is extremely confused as to whether or not his style is highly fashionable or an indication of insanity.

But not to be outdone, Complex Magazine recently gave Jared Leto the number one slot on their list of the “50 Worst Dressed Celebrities of All Time”. ALL TIME. Not just for a particular year, not just in the world, but for all of forever. I find worst dressed lists to be a confirmation that one is not boring, and since I dream of one day becoming relevant enough to be put on such list, I can’t help but be proud of Jared and all the uprising his style has caused. He’s not only been featured on lists; he’s dominated them. He has achieved top honors on all the worst dressed lists which is something I strive to accomplish, as the eclectic vibrancy and persona of the individuals who end up making these lists are the most interesting ones of all.

What I like about Jared is that he doesn't stick to one particular style. From flamboyant attire to elegant suits, he's created his own category of style that is solely his own and doesn't fit into anyone’s expectation of what he should be. His extravagance and willingness to wear absolutely whatever he desires is something I have tremendous respect for and wish more people had that kind of courage in fashion. As any forward thinking person, his style has evolved tremendously over time, and in recent years, his eccentricity in fashion seems to have hit an all-time high. He's been seen wearing slippers in public, man skirts, mesh tank tops, ponchos, shredded t-shirts, studded pants, and Indiana Jones style hats. His hair has been sculpted into a vibrant pomegranate colored mohawk, cut into a mullet multiple times, and dyed a smurf shade of blue. Although hair is an aspect of one's style, Jared’s hair has a mind of its own and I would have to devote an entire post just to express the flawless qualities and evolution of his hairstyles over the years. 

He's attended various fashion weeks (where fashion criticism is naturally heightened) and still stays true to his style without sacrificing his fashion identity for the approval of the mainstream, which is one of the reasons why I idolize him so much. He doesn’t play it safe with fashion, nor does he hold back in expressing who he really is inside.

Jared and Gaga exchanging style tips at the 2010 VMAs
Some call him a fashion icon, some believe he gets dressed in the dark, some think he tries too hard, some think he’s just a blonde wig away from being Lady Gaga, and some just can’t figure him out. But the reality is that he’s simply just being himself. He’s confident in expressing his creativity through all aspects of life, and fashion is no exception. Creative individuals are compelled to share their art with the world, and one’s fashion is a form of art. The choices we make with our clothes is one of the most beautiful and vulnerable parts of life, as our personal attire tell us a lot about one another and can be seen as a  reflection of how we perceive ourselves.

Jared Leto’s style is one of my favorite things in the world. He is like the explosion of a really weird rainbow, an eighties hair metal band, and Derek Zoolander (the ultimate fashion icon). No matter if he wears a flannel shirt and jeans or faux feathers over a denim vest, I will defend his fashion choices until the death of me because the individuals who are unafraid to freely express themselves through fashion are those in which I admire most. People like him give me hope for all of humanity in that it’s ok to do whatever you want in fashion, regardless of one’s age, gender, or how ridiculous others may think you look.

The toxic notion behind the worst dressed lists applies to more than just celebrities. It represents negative fashion criticism, and the idea that some of us are “wrong” with our style and have broken non-existent rules of fashion. Don’t let the fear of being criticized keep you from expressing your individuality. Those who break the rules and refuse to conform to society’s standards, in both fashion and in life, are the ones who change the world for the better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shoe Lust

I think one of the greatest joys of my existence as a child was that I gave my mom and grandma a chance to dress me up as if I were a doll. Playing dress up was 100% of the time, and they made sure I had vibrant outfits for every occasion. I remember for my pre-school Christmas show, they put me in a red winter dress with Dalmatian print and a matching “handmuff”. I didn’t even know what a handmuff was, but my grandma explained it to me and told me about how she had been to a wedding once where all the girls were dripping in diamonds and wearing handmuffs. Italians go over the top in everything, so I really had no choice but to wear an accessory that had been seen in a fancy wedding to my pre-school Christmas show. As I think about it now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only owners of handmuffs are dolls, girls from the 1940s, and Gina as a child.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on my past and the influences that have helped shape me into the person I am today. My grandma and mother are definitely huge influences, as they’re the strongest and most beautiful women I know. But one of the most profound influences on my life was the film The Wizard of Oz.

I watched this movie countless times as a child, enjoying it more and more each time I saw it. Dorothy was someone I could relate to. We both lived on farms, and as cheesy as it sounds, we both had dreams of going somewhere over the rainbow into a magical land that was beyond life on the farm. I found comfort in Dorothy, and felt as if she was someone who understood me. Living on a farm is a very different experience than the majority of childhoods, and I’m not sure anyone could understand unless they grew up in that kind of environment. And it was especially odd for me, as I was this eccentric and vibrant little child who would run around in mesh fairy wings and use the cattle guard as a catwalk.

The Wizard of Oz was an outlet of escape for me—a chance to live apart from reality and in the magical land of Oz. I loved it all. The music, the costumes, the characters, Dorothy, even the Wicked Witch-- she fascinated me, as did her army of monkeys. But what I loved most of all was the Ruby Slippers. They were the ultimate sense of glamour and I found great beauty in them. My 4 year old self was in awe, and even today when I watch the film I’m still in awe.

When I was around 4, my mom and grandma got me my very own pair of “Ruby Slippers”, which began my lifelong relationship with shoes. They were my connection to Dorothy, to fashion, and to everything I ever dreamed of. They weren’t just shoes—they were food for my soul, and helped harness the magic that was inside of me. An incredible feeling overcame me whenever I wore them, as they allowed me to take the fantasy of Oz and bring it into reality.

Fast forward to August of 2011, just weeks before my 21st birthday. Being the kind soul she is, my mother decided to get me a pair of Jeffrey Campbell Lita shoes as a birthday gift. She didn’t really know anything about them other than “the shoes you’ve been obsessed with”, so instead of finding them, she gave me the money to buy the pair I had desired.

Months prior, I had been lusting over these brilliant creations in footwear. They were different than any shoe I had ever seen. The 6 inch block of a heel, the variety in colors, the way they laced up—I knew right away that they were made for me. I had gone through a variety of shoes over the years, but there was something special about the Litas. They were the kind of special that I only saw one other time in my life; with the Ruby Slippers.

When my Litas finally arrived, the excitement had turned me into an extreme emotional mess.  I was a bit apprehensive about opening the box since I had been waiting for this moment for so long and didn’t want that lusting feeling to ever end. But I quickly pushed that feeling aside and ripped open the box like a wild animal on crack.

The day I got my Litas. Don't mind my skeletal fingers.
My mom and brother watched as I shredded the cardboard in excitement. They were probably curious as to what the big deal was with my latest obsession in fashion. I finally got the box open, and it was love at first sight.

It’s like they were crafted by angels in platform heaven. The soft black leather, the factory fresh smell, the larger than life heel—I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t pass out and die upon first laying eyes on them, as the feeling was just too much for my heart to handle.

When I tried them on, my emotions got even further out of control. I didn’t want to look at anyone, because I didn’t want them to see me tearing up. If people were allowed to marry shoes in California, I would’ve married them in an instant. They brought life into me, and it was like I was seeing the world for the very first time when they were on my feet. They were more than just a material item, they were one of my essential body parts.

Meanwhile, my mom and brother were observing the scene of Gina and Lita insanity that was happening right there in the kitchen. They thought the shoes were ridiculous. My mom could not stop laughing and told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk without falling and killing myself. My brother shook his head and said that the shoes were meant for hookers. When my dad got home and saw them, he thought I had finally lost my mind. I took everyone’s reactions as compliments, and proceeded into my room where I could be at peace with my new shoes, my cat, and a cup of tea—my only necessities in the world.

My Litas brought back the feeling of happiness I had with my Ruby Slippers at age 4. It was like the magic in my life had been restored. My Ruby Slippers were my first solemate, and now I had found my second.
An extreme love for shoes may seem superficial to those who haven’t discovered their perfect pair. But nothing is more genuine than the beautiful feeling one has upon walking around in their favorite pair of shoes. When my favorites are on my feet (heels in particular), they become an extension of my being. They bring out the best version of myself, and give me confidence in wanting to do amazing things in life.

Unfortunately, I was not born a 6ft tall European top model, so wearing heels is the closest I’ll ever get to my unattainable dream of supermodel stardom.  Shoes have an incredible power of liberation, and my hope for the world is for everyone to be able to experience the same joys with shoes as I have.
The phrase “if you could walk in my shoes…”is spot on when it comes to the connection between shoes and life. There’s something extremely personal about out shoes. Our steps begin our journeys in life, and having a pair of shoes that we find happiness in is essential in leading us closer to our dreams.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"I Don't Know Where I'm Going, but I Promise It Won't be Boring."

A Philip Treacy crystallized lobster headpiece
worn by Lady Gaga, aka the Queen.

Over the weekend, one of my family members contacted me and told me that, amongst other things, I am too preoccupied with fashion and celebrities to ever make it in the real world. That I should focus on preparing myself for what a role that fits in with society rather than standing out. In their view, I’m apparently not mature enough to ever make a name for myself because I distance myself from reality and choose to live in my imagination. Fashion is the fuel that powers the world of fantasy in my head-- that’s an obvious fact of my life. But their words were said as an insult, as if my passion and devotion to fashion is a problem. I will admit, I was quite upset over their comment. But I picked myself up, got over it, and am finding the positivity in this minor blow to my character.

The first bit of positivity that comes from this is that it must mean I’m not boring. The fact that my mere existence and interests are enough to infuriate people who have never even been a huge part of my life gives me a sense of satisfaction. I don’t know why my life bothers them, but it tells me that I am doing something right. I find that the best people in this world are the ones who don’t follow the rules society puts upon them. The ones who aren’t afraid to be different and the ones who have the courage to express themselves however they choose.

The second reason as to why this situation is positive is because it has paved the way for my blog post this week! Since some people seem to think I’m too preoccupied with fashion and celebrities, I’m going to talk about just that and then take it to the next level by going into detail the ensembles I’d wear if I were in the public eye.

I’ve always said that if I were a celebrity, I’d be put on a worst dressed list every single day of my life. From the criticism in magazines to the comical comments from Joan Rivers on Fashion Police, there’s no doubt in my mind that the eccentricity of my being would  go far beyond the realm of what’s considered accepted attire in today’s society.

Since I’m putting myself in this hypothetical celebrity situation; let’s assume I’d have quite an attractive bank account. And with the excitement of my wallet, I would spend every dollar on the creation that is my own personal style. The amount of makeup, clothes, wigs, and accessories I’d own would turn every day into a costume party. My entire life would be a David Bowie themed runway show-- an ongoing exotic adventure in my own little world of fairies, rainbows, and graveyards. Not many people would understand, but they wouldn’t have to.  Sometimes the beauty of it all if knowing that there are people who don’t understand. They’re not worthy of having you in their lives, and their toxic energy is not welcome.

I’d wear sparkly crowns, yellow feathers, glue rhinestones to my face, and walk around with an entourage of fellow freaks and misfits.

I would devote an entire room in my house to my collection of neon wigs, my collection of shoes, and my collection of Galliano pieces.

The hats I’d decorate my head with would make the sights seen at the royal wedding seem like no big deal. My various headpieces would make it difficult to fit through doorways, but that’s a challenge I’d be willing to tackle.

My eyes would be shielded by Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses whenever I venture indoors, because I find people who wear shades inside to be the coolest and most interesting kinds of rebels in the world.

I would wear haute couture every single day, and the fashion would become so intense that people wouldn’t know whether or not if my ensembles connoted high end couture or homelessness.

But what would I actually be famous for? Being a superhero? A supermodel? A superfreak? All of the above? If you’ve been following my posts, you may feel the need to suggest the idea of me appearing on what would be the most watched episode of Hoarders of all time: My problem of “Hoarding Perfume like a French Whore” is bound to one day spin out of control, thus thrusting me into the spotlight for my fifteen minutes of shameful reality show induced fame and fortune. Or maybe I’ll end up doing what every girl dreams of doing; marrying a rock star who is twice my age. My vibrant marriage and odd demeanor will be enough to put me at the level of importance for appearing on fashion lists.

I would look like a cross between Thumbelina, Morticia Addams, and the mother in the film Matilda. I would be the most intriguing mess of fashion of all time. The western world would probably not be able to handle it.  People will start rioting on the streets because they’ll be painfully confused and won’t know how else to deal with their emotions.

I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in the future, but I’m positive that my love of fashion will only intensify. I’m excited to see how my style progresses as time goes by, as evolution on all levels is an essential part life.  The extremely pathetic amount of dollars right now in my bank account already goes towards purchasing all aspects of fashion, so I can only imagine how exciting my life would be if I had the funds to expand my empire of style.

But no matter if I become ridiculously rich and famous or am living alone in the middle of a forest during a cold winter in Germany, fashion will always be a part of me. No one has the right to ever make you feel bad about yourself, or tell you what you’re doing with your life is wrong. As cliché as it sounds, there are always going to be people who try and bring you down. I guess I’ve never truly understood what that meant until now. We are all perfect the way we are, and we need to embrace our individuality. If anyone has a problem with that, cover yourself in epic amounts of glitter to the point in which the sparkle is so powerful that it defeats all those who try and ruin you.