Victoria’s Secret Show makes me feel good

A parade of toned models showcasing sparkly $2m undies and fluffy wings to a live Swifty soundtrack. It can only be the annual Victoria’s Secret Show. But with the brand’s recent controversy, our low body confidence  and feminism currently navigating a very tricky path, it’s likely that many will deem this year’s show (Dec 2nd, London) a very unhelpful occurence.

They might be right. But in truth, watching the show makes me feel good about myself.

Lemme explain. Yes, the models are slim and toned and by media standards, beautiful. They have bodies that people who don’t use theirs for a living will never have. But rather than make me feel sad, or encourage me to kickstart a fruitless fitness campaign that’ll be over within a week, watching them laugh and strut and smile on the runway inspires me to be awesome. I know. That’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard, too. But they revel in the cheese, they love it long time. And during that show, so do I. To me, the show feels positive and empowering, not degrading or upsetting.

Of course, it’s about the underwear and how it looks on their bodies. There are so many attitudes under the body image umbrella that we need to change. But the show is also about being confident and ultimately, women having a good time together. In interviews, many of the models cite the show as the most brilliant thing they get to do all year, mostly because they’re reunited with one another.

As soon as the show airs, it’s inevitable that vitriolic reviews will pop up everywhere, targeting the model’s bodies in skinny-shame ways, because they’re frustrated with society and the media and branding. This is a given. But, me? When it’s on, I’ll be jamming to TS and Ed Sheeran in my PJs (tickets are like £10k), feeling  ‘femspired’ and awesome. Cheese a-plenty.


Long live the television!

Television has had a lot of moments. Like back in 1926 when it came to fruition (probably it’s biggest moment, really). And then when colour got in on the action. There have probably been a few others since then. And now, television is having another moment. Or rather, what’s on television is having a moment, thanks to our new thirst for telly series’.

While it’s brilliant that TV actors are reaching movie-star fame, no longer disregarded because of their lack of film credentials, and the two worlds are intermingling sans shame (see: True Detective), the television itself is slipping away. And this is not so brilliant. Proof of our television crisis comes in this, a piece about TVs fading in popularity, and a US millenial being genuinely weirded out by seeing a television in a fellow student’s college dorm. As if they’ve never seen one before. Confused, as if someone left a racoon on their desk.

In a way, we have our beloved series’ to blame. If they didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be such a huge appetite for Netflix or Hulu (even iPlayer and catch up), and thus there wouldn’t be a culture of watching things on your laptop rather than on an actual television. We can get everything our TV has to offer, on our laptops, whether that’s through Netflix, downloads, streaming, etc. I, myself, have watched New Girl episodes on my laptop. True story.

But for me, the social element of watching television is unbeatable. When I was little, every Saturday after tea (yes, tea – even in the South West), we’d gather in front of the telly to watch Stars In Their Eyes or Blind Date. It was part of our family life. I can’t imagine, one day in the probably-not-so-distant future, watching the World Cup on a laptop. Or walking into my mum’s living room and not seeing a television (not because hers is noteworthy but because it’s what we’ve always known). How will uncreative folk arrange their furniture?

Luckily, a lot of TV providers have a Netflix option now, so you can watch it through the TV like a normal human being circa ten years ago. Of course, there’s so much more to this debate (the underwhelming non-revolution of 3D televisions, the rise of ‘binge-watching’ etc), but at the end of the day, televisions are not like other gadgets. They are in it for the long haul (please?)


Feminism thoughts (CC. Amy)

For a while, I struggled to sum up how I felt about the recent spate of non-feminist accusations in the celeb world. Of course, I’m a feminist. I believe in complete equal rights, and everyone being nice and fair to each other (sounds so simple, doesn’t it?). Most people feel the same way. But the word itself is now often used as a weapon, battering those who say they’re not sure or that they’re not feminists. Which, baffling as their anwer is, doesn’t seem like a very feminist thing to do. Surely?

I didn’t know how to articulate how I felt until I read Amy Poehler’s interview in Stylist. My thoughts echo hers exactly (only she said it brilliantly):

‘I think the media has gotten really into who likes to say that they’re a feminist so now the story has become who doesn’t say that they are one. It’s just another example of society pitting women against each other and asking them to compete rather than to collaborate. So, to young women who like to say they aren’t feminists, I wish that they understood what feminism really meant and stood for, but at the end of the day the story about who is and who isn’t feminist has now become very anti-feminist to me.’



What’s going down, Chinatown?

I have a confession to make. Until August this year, I had never been to Chinatown in New York (despite having been to the city itself on four different occasions). I’ve submitted this as a guilty admission because a) I claim to be an avid NY lover and b) I’m half Chinese (sorry, dad). But in August, when I got there – and I did get there – I realised that I didn’t really know much about either Chinatown. And that’s no good.
I’ve been to London’s Chinatown countless times. The supermarkets, the restaurants, the bakeries; I waz ‘ere. It supposedly throws the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations in the world – easy to believe when you’re an ant in a slow moving colony on Gerrard Street, avoiding the mysterious firecrackers kids are throwing at the floor and wondering which dim sum restaurant has the smallest queue (answer: none). London also has the oldest Chinatown in a Western city, established in the 1700s in the East End. Sailors and traders from the East India Company rocked up at Limehouse, and a few years on, were cooking up delicious cuisine for Chinese seamen. Throw in a war, and a job drought for non-British seamen, and they were soon in trouble. But in the 50s, British soldiers returned from East Asia with an appreciation for Chinese food. Restauranters set up shop on Gerrard St, workers from the British territory of Hong Kong arrived, and the rest is history.
day 3 china town 2
New York’s Chinatown had a bumpier ride. It came to be in the 1840s on the LES. London might have the oldest, but New York has the largest Chinese population in the West. In a similar vein, Chinese traders went to the US, and once gold mines declined, they took up textile and cigar-rolling jobs. White locals felt threatened by the Chinese ‘taking’ their jobs at a cheaper rate, which led to the Chinese Exclusion Act – a federal law which forbid wives and children of Chinese labourers to move to the US. But the hard times encouraged the Chinese to stick together, and by the time the law was lifted the Chinese community had built Chinatown into a buzzing area.
So what’s the difference between the two? And which one’s better?
Food wise, it’s a no-brainer. I really expected dim sum in The Big Apple to be the same as in the UK and Hong Kong, but not so. Instead of getting three char siu bao (buns filled with roast pork), as standard, you get just one massive one, and inside, the texture’s different. It didn’t taste like a home from home. But New York’s Chinatown felt like home. Exploring the area filled my heart to burst. It felt authentic (before you reach the flags leading to Little Italy, course). Unlike London’s one main street, there were a few streets, all linked together, and packed. It was a world away from our breezy pedestrian street, laden with tourists posing by that big red arch.
So, my advice? Hit up London to get your fill, and New York for the feel. Because it’s that easy to go between the two…

Gender probz

Christmas gift guides are everywhere. A happy little supplement seems to fall out of every magazine I buy. It’s brilliant. But the other day, I came across a gift that made my blood boil.

On the men’s pages, along with leather wallets, braces and such, was a guitar.

This infuriated me for two reasons:

1. Since when do only men play musical instruments? It would be equally absurd if they’d put a piano on the womens pages. Which they didn’t. Because it’s absurd. I’m sure that if someone did the research, they’d find that more men than women do play the guitar. But that doesn’t mean it’s a brilliant gift just for a man. Or in fact, for anyone, which leads me to my next point…

2. Since when do you casually buy a guitar for someone? It is not like a candle or a travel wallet. It’s not like every man will enjoy it or find a use for it, as per the other items on the page. They need to actually play the guitar. And if they do, the chances are, they don’t want a specific brand and model that they haven’t asked for. They’ll know the style, body, model they like or want. It’s not like, ‘I know he plays the guitar, so he will like this guitar.’ And, if they don’t play the guitar but have asked for one, it’s unlikely they will have said ‘just get any.’ So many illogical shortcomings behind such a bizarre gift guide inclusion.

Happy shopping!


Book Worm: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel.P

These days, it’s not uncommon for a book to fall victim to its own success. You know, it becomes known as more style than substance, hype over quality. So when Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel.P garnered huge praise and attention, I was hesitant. But when is The New Yorker wrong? Never.

The first draw for me was that the book was written by a female, about a male, but reading it, you wouldn’t know the wordsmith wasn’t a guy. The story is about successful writer, Nate, who’s making his way in NY, plagued by women troubles, the odds bouts of career anxiety and something of a love/hate relationship with himself. Basically, a modern man. Nate and his friends, and girlfriends, are all Ivy League alumni, the intellectual eyes and ears of a generation. While the novel covers all ground, from living in Brooklyn to his rising career, the real focus is on his relationships with other women (which, in turn, say a lot about his relationship with himself, his friends and his family). Throughout the book Nate finds himself in limbo, one minute so above superficial, soulless society, and the next, judging women on the smallest of details.

A brilliant, insightful book with moments we can all relate to, and some that seem to be dominant in just the male psyche (and so make for compelling reading). You rarely get a first-person novel about a male that’s just as self-indulgent as the majority of 21st century books aimed at females. It truly feels like the only modern book I’ve ever read, tackling age-old topics (dating, city life), but from a new, relevant angle. There’s a short prequel to the book now, written through the eyes of Nate’s friend Aurit. An excellent read if you’re struggling to leave Nate’s life!


Exclamation marks are back!

There was a time, I’d say circa the mid-90s, when exclamation marks were in their prime. If you didn’t see at least ten on a women’s magazine cover, well, you weren’t counting properly (numbers aren’t for everyone).

Then, we got into the noughties sarcasm boom, where exclamation marks were swapped for sarcastic, sultry full stops. The unfunny were separated from the comic, as full-stop-gate took hold. But it was only a matter of time.

Here we are, 2014, and the exclam. is back, y’all! (See! I can’t stop!). With it, it brings a touch of the 90s sarcasm and wit, but much more personality, and let’s be honest, joy. As with full-stop-gate, you can interpret what precedes the exclamation mark usually one of two ways – that what is being said is serious, or in fact, it’s not at all truthful to the (usually negative, ‘clever’) intention. But the superior thing about our friend the exclam., is that even if you interpret it’s place as being genuine and not sarcastic or ‘brilliant’, the content will still most probably make you feel joyful. Even if someone is calling you a ‘useless piece of shit!’ It’s all in the tone, people. The jovial, joyous nature of the exclamation mark means it’s fun for all, from the overly-cheery to the pass-agg-addict.

Long live the exclamation mark!


That Thing: Gymtimidation

Definition: that thing when you feel like a twat at the gym.

It’s not hard to feel crap at the gym. The bright lights, huge mirrors, in-house fanatics with crop tops and equipment know-how, all there to make you feel horrendous. I didn’t notice those things before, when I was fit as a fiddle. But a few weeks ago, having rejoined this year when I wasn’t so fit, I did notice – and they made me feel bad. Instead of feeling confident, I yearned to be invisible as I did all of my exercises completely wrong like the bonehead I was. Hello, gymtimidation. Or should that be, hell aka gymtimidation. There’s nothing worse than trying to workout (an effort on it’s own) and then failing, thanks to beautiful limbs (not my own), starey, gross men and the realisation that you don’t know what you’re doing and why you’re swinging your legs like that (seriously, where did you think you saw this move?).

Stats show that 10 million women feel depressed over the way their bodies look. That‘s depressing. I don’t hate my body, but I certainly don’t love it – not as much as that woman’s over there. And I’ve realised that that’s where most of my (and perhaps others’) gymtimidation comes from. Probably where that stats comes from, too. Comparisons. That’s why I feel crap when I get out of breath easily, or when I’m doing an exercise wrong, or when parts of my body move in an unsavoury manner while in action. Not because I hate myself, or what I’m doing. But because I don’t look like that girl over there doing those things, and man, she looks good. In that small, strange environment, my brain makes comparisons without me even realising. I want her legs, I wish I could do that many sit-ups, she looks so professional on the rower, how has she been running for half an hour? In real-life, most of us won’t stand for intimidation. So why do we stand for gymtimidation? No more! Do things your way, laugh at how insane you look swinging your legs akimbo on the mat, be at peace with your arms doing their own little dance when you’re on the cross-trainer, ‘give a fuck’ about hot people infiltrating the premises. You are hot. And still doing that move wrong. But hot!

Sarah Kwong, Journalist