August Musings On September Issues

I’ll be honest- August is one of my least favorite months. I don’t know why but weird, not-so-awesome things always seem to happen in August, or the month has routinely carried the weight of transition for me. I moved during August (two years to the date!), school frequently starts up again in August, the calendar starts to get too busy in August, and summer movies are never quite as good in August. It could be the looming start of a new school year and the existential reminder that all good Rosé seasons must come to an end, or it could just be me.

So over the years I’ve tried to find little ways to take back this month and be intentional about enjoying it, and for nearly ten years now one of those ways has involved getting really, really, reeeeeeeeally excited for September issues. If you know me, you know this. The annual crowning achievement of every fashion magazine editor is their September issue, and while the magazine industry seems to be in upheaval now right alongside retail, we can bet that no matter what happens there will forever and always be excitement surrounding the inaugural weeks of fall fashion. I’m not sure why people don’t get this excited for spring fashion in February. It must be the pumpkin-spice-loving, Ugg-boots-wearing, Bath-and-Body-Works-obsessing white girl in all of us.

So let’s look at a couple September covers, though we’ll be sans Vogue today because they have to be all queenie and make a grand entrance after everyone else. However, we WILL make some speculative guesses!

Blake Lively for Glamour

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I like this cover. It’s cheerful. It reads a little more March than September to me, but it’s still very beautiful. I’m not a huge fan of the large flower on Blake’s neck, but the soft focus on her face is easily the first thing you notice anyhow. Glamour has really been playing with its cover design the past couple years and the playful font lends a decidedly millennial feel to this one, clearly reaching out to younger readers. Lively apparently spends a great deal of her interview discussing the Child Rescue Coalition, an organization that “provides law enforcement with technology to track and prosecute child predators.” It might be heavy subject matter for a September issue, but I have to say it’s great to hear a celebrity pushing the focus outward instead of talking about their latest reinvention of themselves.

Alicia Vikander for Elle

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This, in stark contrast to Glamour‘s, is actually the kind of cover I prefer. It may be a little boring to some but I like that it makes a plain, straightforward statement. The bold fonts combined with Vikander’s dress and shoulder-y stance give off a kind of eighties vibe. Speaking of Alicia Vikander, it isn’t as interesting to see who is chosen for a September cover as much as it is to discover why. I like trying to predict September covers based on who has projects coming up that month. Alicia probably snagged the cover in anticipation of her late-August movie Tulip Fever, and to ramp up buzz for her Tomb Raider remake in March.

For Vogue, rumor has it that a certain actress in an upcoming Darren Aronofsky film will be taking their September cover. If this proves true I’ll be a little disappointed beings that she had this coveted cover just four years ago AND she was on Vogue‘s cover this past December, less than a year ago! Give it a rest, Ms. Wintour. And a second prediction- Rihanna will almost certainly grab a September cover somewhere, be it with Allure or Marie Claire, due to the launch of Fenty Beauty on September 8. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for this launch. You know there’s bound to be some top-of-the-line lipstick in any beauty launch that Rihanna’s responsible for.

Selena Gomez for InStyle

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Ah, and now for the one that I subscribe to and don’t just pick up on occasion. This magazine has been undergoing a nonstop overhaul since Laura Brown replaced Ariel Foxman as editor-in-chief last November. Some of the changes I’ve loved, others not as much. The covers that Brown has overseen have been consistently fresh and eye-catching nonetheless. She really has done a bang-up job.

It’s seemed the entire print mag industry has been trying to get its sea legs as it adjusts to constant change these years. Some have shuttered completely (RIP Lucky, Self, and probably People StyleWatch, or whatever it’s called now, very soon). Waning relevance thanks to social media and online content, a struggling retail industry (affecting fashion in general), and a political climate in upheaval have made it a challenge for fashion magazines to keep up readership and relatability. It’s been good to see InStyle as one of the few print periodicals that has taken the bull by the horns and leaned in to the maelstrom of change these days. And Selena, the woman with the most Instagram followers in the world at 124 million, is having her moment with a Coach partnership and a new album out probably sooner than later.

Adriana Lima, The Weeknd, and Irina Shayk for Harper’s Bazaar

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And now for the wildcard. Selena and her boyfriend must be high-fiving each other over both claiming September covers this year- not something you’d expect to find on any male celebrity’s resume (save for the obvious i.e. GQ). I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I first saw this. The expressions on their faces somehow read super Zoolander to me. I’m pleased, however, that Adriana and Irina are the only models on the September cover lineup so far. The rest are musicians or actors. I have to say that I’m pretty burned out with the resurgence of the supermodel. I know for a while we all complained that the world of fashion had been given over to the celebrity and there was not enough respect being given to the model, the original and true muse of the industry. However, we’ve turned on the supermodel firehose these days with an endless barrage of Gigi, Kendall, Joan, Bella, Hailey, Kaia, Emily, Cara, and Karlie. Their omnipresence on our social media feeds has had a numbing effect on me personally, and I’ve struggled to relate one little bit to today’s supermodels. But I guess the point of a supermodel isn’t exactly relatability, is it?  And the day I do relate to one, well, that probably means I’ve somehow become one in some alternate universe.

Any covers you especially love? Or any predictions for those yet seen? Do tell, and first and foremost, try to enjoy your August! xo, MR

Photo credits by order of appearance: Nathaniel Goldberg/Glamour magazine, David Bellemere/ELLE, Phil Poynter/InStyle, Brigitte LaCombe

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InstaShame: In Defense Of That Cliche Latte Art Picture You Posted

A couple months ago, my husband and I were standing in line at a very popular restaurant in Los Angeles waiting for a table.  It was a Saturday, and we were there for brunch.  The occasion was our anniversary and I, being an avid TripAdvisor-er, had chosen this place based on its stellar ratings and attractive Instagram feed (and I do consider that a veritable source these days).  We couldn’t have picked a better time to be “part of the crowd”.  Everyone was looking at everyone, and everyone seemed to have had the foreknowledge that they were going to be looked at, and all dressed accordingly.  There were felt fedoras, handle-bar mustaches, Chelsea boots, plenty of Rag and Bone, plenty of Madewell, and beautiful hair all around.  Each young man and woman had worn their brunch-day best.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that I participated to the best of my own capabilities.

Another defining mark of each crowd member was the presence of a phone, likely with Instagram open and snapping away at the restaurant’s gorgeous interior (and I arrived at this conclusion based on the amount of phones in the air, camera apps visible).  When plates of beautifully presented #brunchporn made their way to each table, the phones were out again.  I tracked the restaurant’s hashtag continuously and watched it update consistently throughout the couple hours surrounding our visit.  New photos, new dishes, new perspectives by the minute.  The same thing tends to happen to me when I enter coffee shops.  It doesn’t even matter if the latte I’ve ordered comes with foam art (though all the better if it does); I manage to take a picture, play around with filters or frames for a minute, and perhaps upload it to Instagram with some small expression of how I am enjoying this or that.

I sometimes wonder how I’ve picked up these habits.  Would I have thought coffee to be such a wonderful amateur photography subject were it on not for the countless other pictures of coffee that I’ve encountered on Instagram?  Would I ever think to photograph my eggs on toast again if I hadn’t received a record amount of likes on that brunch picture?  Or is food really that beautiful and worth my time?  Is coffee truly that lovely that it deserves an artistic interpretation for hundreds of others to see when the point is to just drink it?  I guess what I am asking at the end of all things is this- Am I a cliche?  A “basic” white girl completely consumed by the culture of the world she lives in, minding no attention to the moment?  Am I typical?  Am I just doing what everyone is doing because we’re all doing it and we all seem to like it?  Am I a slave to trends?  Am I sacrificing all originality and all creativity for the sake of giving my “followers” what I think they might like?  After all, one of the most common pieces of advice given in articles these days discussing the do’s and don’ts of Instagram is to “be original”.  Don’t do what everybody else is doing!  People want to see something different!  You need to be different!

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The answer to all of the aforementioned questions might be … Yes.  But that “yes” may also need to be followed by … and don’t worry about it.

You see, for myself, Instagram has brought with it a large sense of shame.  Shame for the fact that I, like so many other people, want to take a picture of myself when I love how my makeup looks.  Or when I love my hair.  I mean, how narcissistic must one be to want to take a picture of themselves and share it with others?!  I feel shame for the fact that when I am now served my latte, I attempt to find an attractive surface to place it on so that I might take a picture of it, just like everyone else.  I feel shame for the fact that I have no excuses for posting that picture of myself; only the excuse that I wanted to.  I feel shame for the fact that I am not always entirely “present” now as I go through life in the sense that I’m no longer just “going through it”; I’m also looking for little Instagram opportunities, just as others around me are.  I feel shame for being like everyone else.  I feel shame for being me.

And it is here, my friends, that I believe I am met with grace.

It’s strange that in the world of Instagram, of all places, I find the shame of my false self crystallized and yet I am also presented with the gift of being myself.  I take a picture of something I am enjoying, but then feel shame for “being like everyone else”.  I attempt to create and share beauty with a photo I’ve taken, but feel shame for flagrantly expressing that this is what I truly perceive as beautiful, especially if it’s one of the millions of lattes under a coffee hashtag.  Or my baby for the millionth time.  I want to be perceived as different, as unique, and yet here I am again, uploading a moody picture of a frothy beverage in a ceramic mug handed to me by some mildly pretentious 24-year-old with a fade and some vague resemblance of a beard.  Just like everyone else.

And yet, in those moments, I am enjoying.  I am delighting in and capturing beauty.  Though I may be acting as thousands of others do, I am being myself.  I would never have thought of coffee as a thing of beauty were it not for Instagram.  I would never have thought to stop and look at the appealing presentation of my eggs on toast were it not for the camera in my hand.  I would never have thought to look up and observe the space around me from an artistic point of view were it not for the possibility of snapping a great photo of it.  Instagram has given me a radar for beauty in places that I might otherwise have ignored it, and I love that.

There’s a vulnerability to social media.  We take pictures of what we see as beautiful-including ourselves!-and dare to share it with the world as a declaration of beauty.  We say, Look!  This baby!  This city!  This face!  This pair of shoes!  This plate of salad!  It is a beautiful thing, is it not?!  This can be a very delicate dance between earnest self-expression and vain, outright self-promotion; of genuine enjoyment and mindless impulse.  It is a good and righteous thing to be aware of why we take and upload the pictures we take.  However, I believe that when we are conscious of the subjects of our photos, mindful of why we are sharing what we are sharing, taking true joy in what we are doing as we put our finger to that camera app, and delighting in beauty for goodness’ sake, we are actually being our true selves.  And there is no shame in that.

Our fear of looking like everyone else, of being perceived as just another face in the crowd, of being a nobody, is overcome when we delight in what is good.  My fear of being seen as “basic” and “typical” is washed away when I just enjoy; my shame is overcome when I freely admit this sense of enjoyment.  Am I once again opening my VSCOcam app to snap a still shot of my iced coffee?  Yes.  Am I freely enjoying my iced coffee as a thing of beauty in doing so?  Yes!

Yes, I am participating in social media trends that millions of others are participating in as well.  And no, I needn’t worry about the millions of others.  Why?  Because I am being myself.  I am taking joy, I am delighting in beauty.

I write all of this because I’ve struggled for some time over the subject matter of this blog and it’s “reboot”.  I knew this blog would inevitably involve selfies posted to Instagram.  I knew this blog would involve lengthy discussions over topics that many deem superficial and nothing of substance.  I knew this blog would require me to be vulnerable in expressing how much I love things like mascara and Emma Stone’s hair, knowing full well that many may scoff and find such expressions “a waste of breath”.  And I write this because it’s time for all that to stop mattering.  I believe I have been called to be myself.

I hope you can receive and accept the same grace that I have found in being one’s self.  To enjoy beauty, to delight in goodness, and to share it whether in speech or on social media- you are called to be yourself.  And if that means another picture of a latte on your Instagram feed, that is perfectly all right.  xo, MR