Journalism with a Red Carpet slap!

The red carpet was laid down, the tele-prompter was packed with witty questions and all the limos lined up in front of Beverly Hills Hilton. It was glamorous, it was superficial and it managed to somehow glue the entire world in front of their television sets.

The award season began with a bang. But what’s interesting is that these awards are never really about the awards. They are about who is wearing what. Who had better hair and who wore the most expensive jewels. The frocks, tux, oompa-loompa tan, false lashes and hair extensions – it’s all about the external look. Obviously, the blokes don’t have to worry as much as the ladies. Say they were to repeat a suit they wore to the Academy Awards last year, they’d still be excused by the Fashion Police. But if a female actor was to commit the said fashion crime – she’d probably go to jail for it. The ladies have to look impeccable from every angle. Pretty sure the spandex sale in LA goes out of control during this time of the year (and consequently the sale of food reduces). On events like these, social networking sites usually burst out with “frock fest”, “hair trend alert” and “malfunction watch” updates. Every girl drools over her favourite gown and wishes that she was the one strutting down the red carpet instead.

Personally there is something about red carpet events that makes me cringe. It’s the red carpet reporting. Not only is it full of bullshit, but lacks every ingredient of “interviewing” and “reporting”. Asking questions like “what did you eat this morning” and “what time did you start getting ready for the event” is not reporting. It’s not even close to what entertainment journalism should be. It is trashy journalism. All those reporters on the red carpet are dolled up in their favourite designer’s outfits and really, they are not concerned about the movies or the nominations. They are concerned about whose tweets are getting the maximum retweets. They want to know actors’ marital status, their sexual partner’s name, their fitness regime and their underwear brand (I’m not even kidding about this one). These tight-smiled-jaw-clenching celebrities should be promoting their projects while keeping the journalist out of their private lives. But inversely, they are bombarded with silly questions that they tactfully ignore and make the entire interviewing process rather delightful to watch. In most cases, it’s painful to watch.

There was a time when I used to watch Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic on TV and admire their jobs. I aspired to be in their shoes and rub shoulders with all the glamourous faces in Hollywood. But ever since Justin Beiber took center stage, my dream crashed. But that’s another story. The meaning of entertainment reporting has changed. It’s not just a red carpet inundated with camera flashes and sexy backs. It is a place where celebrities are expected to make fart noises on camera and journalists are expected to burn their professional careers.

IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Food Revolution

Every year over a million women (and men) cling on a diet plan to either get their ‘bikini-perfect’ or ‘kicking the winter bug’ body. It’s usually around this time of the year when every household has “New Year resolutions” sticky-taped to every mirror of the house. Everyone suddenly realises that this year is THE best time to do something about the flab under the arms or the unflattering tummy conditions. I usually blame the Christmas pudding for that one.

Come holiday season and the shopping trolleys are loaded with high G.I food and sugar-coated treats. Everyone has to put in that affordable bag of lollies in the shopping list, which is usually “for the guests, darling”! Oh Bullshit. Don’t blame the guests for your midnight snacking.

Now what happens with these New Year resolutions – they crash and burn – but i’ll get to that later.
They start really strong. They go something like this :-

You reduce your sugar intake by half. You ban alcohol from your routine (until Australia Day). You buy everything “fat-free”. You reduce your carb intake. You eat lots of salads. And most importantly… you start skipping meals.

Nodding so far? I thought so.

Bad news, kiddo. These are not only a waste of time, but it’s also not how you want it to be.

I’ll explain you why.

You skip meals – which means by night time your brain is so exhausted that it would probably start eating itself. And that is your justification to eat not one, but two dinners. You’d not eaten all day, right? A bag of chips, a handful of nuts, spoonfuls of ice-cream (straight from the tub), a bowl of cereal, few squares of chocolate (usually disguises to rows).
It’s like releasing a hungry lion in a poultry farm. Food heaven! Your stomach is happy but wait till your sugar binge reacts overnight in that belly and gives you a food hangover in the AM.
If the blood sugar levels spike and dip so often in the day, it’ll just leave you depressed and tired all the time. Heard of mood swings?

Here are some of the brain-approved myths:

When people think of carbs, they think white bread, rice, pasta, you know the nasty food group. So by cutting down on carbs, they immediately stop its consumption. They go NO-Carbs. But in reality, carbs is the most important food group to maintain our blood sugar level and avoid the regular visits of afternoon headaches. Our body needs carbs every four hours, whether it’s in the form of veggies, whole grains or whole fruits. There is a worldwide billion dollar diet industry that has ignited a bad reputation about carbs. We need carbs to function, to think, to talk, to tweet, to dance, to flirt – you get the point. It’s all a matter of what carbs you’re consuming, at what time of the day and in what quantity.

Now the “low fat” syndrome. That baby hit me hard. And there are still moments when I flirt between the idea of shoving a ‘99% fat free’ sorbet in the trolley or a delicious tub of ‘Double chocolate chip fudge brownie sundae delight heaven Oh God’. It’s a tough battle, really. People are under the impression that only “low fat” can make people lose weight. However quite contrary to that thought, ‘low fat’ has actually made people fat. When a considerable amount of fat is reduced from a tub of yogurt, giving its “98% fat free” logo, they are actually ratcheting up the sugar content to compensate for the lost flavour. Go see it for yourself in the supermarket. So when you’re downing several tubs of passionfruit yogurt in a day, it’s actually as good as eating an entire log of full cream, full sugar, full fat, full-everything ice-cream.

Have you ever wondered why soft drinks are always on special? Especially the bulk ones? Because producers are smart. They want their money and want to ruin your health (and teeth) in return. Some people also call it marketing strategy – but i’ll ignore that.

These food and health movements are incredibly powerful and brutally truthful in this day and age. Everyone has their own idea and concept about how to live a healthy life. But it’s just never enough for a health fanatic. I have been debating this concept of carbs, fat, sugar, glucose and body for years now. I have read a thousand too many articles and read a hundred-million books on diet and health. I am still confused, still contemplating and still trying to fight that “no-fat” crazy dude in my head.

Though I’ve learnt a few things. 

We don’t need to make drastic food choices to enjoy a delicious meal. Healthy food should not be cringed at, it has feelings. Brown is way more delicious than white. One can never have too many veggies in the fridge. Green Tea is the bomb. Tinned anything belongs to ‘Tin food HELL’. Treat your body like a temple. Be kind by seeing what’s going in it. It deserves to be loved and not feel like you’ve stuffed a big, bloated ball in it. We don’t need to go on 5-day juice cleanse to feel beautiful. Love yourself. You’re not getting paid to get a Jessica Alba alike booty, so enjoy that steak!

We can all make conscious food and lifestyle choices this new year.

And that my friend, would be a food revolution AND resolution.

*** DISCLAIMER ***

This post is an abridged version of bookish information (over the years), my personal experiences and knowledge. Not intended to poke fingers at anyone buying Yoplait yogurt at the supermarket.

Image Credit 1. 2.

A dreamy week at Madison…

Standing in front of 54 Park Street, at 8am, on a fresh, chilly Monday morning, reminded me of Holly Golightly – who stood in front of Tiffany’s, admiring her favourite jewels.

Both of us were looking at our favourite buildings. Both of us were cupping warm take-away cups of piping hot cappuccinos. Both of us were wearing black sunnies (even in the shade).
The only difference was that she couldn’t enter her dream building… but I could. And I did.

For those who read my last post and followed my tweets would know that I was the work experience girl at Madison magazine in Sydney, last week. It was a dreamy week. I didn’t wake up in the morning feeling like my world was ending. I didn’t have a grumpy afternoon. And I went to bed with a big smile.

I thought arriving early at your job is always a good sign. But how early is too early? I was an hour early – is that bad? Well, obviously. The security guard looked at me, strangely, and asked me to get another coffee – because I wasn’t getting through those glass doors before 9.30am. This is what you get for being too keen – what a great start!

When I finally got to swipe my card and enter the wonderful world of ACP – it felt amazing. It felt like I belonged to that place. Except the bold prints of my “VISITOR” pass, were strongly disagreeing.

I had imagined a HUGE office with high-heeled, caked-faced and high-end designer-label-screaming bodies walking everywhere. And what I saw, on that morning, was a complete opposite of my media-driven illusion.

Everyone in the non-magazine world has been convinced by innumerable mainstream movies and TV shows that every ‘fashion magazine office’ is deluged with arrogant and hungry fashion journalists who stomp their six-inch heels into the office and yell at every possible living being. This offensive stereotype is not just unachievable but extremely fictional.

And the Madison Editorial office proved that to me.

The office is located on level 11 of the ACP head office. It has a very cute, organised and stylish vibe to it. The gigantic “m” logo, at the front desk, screams branding and is an intimidating reminder of where you are. The first thing you notice are the beautiful editorials stuck on every window pane and bare wall.
You know you are in the fashion department (which only comprises of three lovely ladies) when you see a big stack of international magazines on the desks, and flat ballerinas hidden under the desks.

The floral scents, shimmery lipstick pallets and TONS of goody bags reinforce the fact that you are in the beauty department. It is a product-slaves’ heaven. It is a tug of war between Chanel, Benefit, Thierry Mugler and Revlon – everyone is fighting for a spot on the desk.

The arts department is oozing out with huge A3-white sheets with sample prints and layouts for the next issue. The intelligent cubicle of talented feature writers cannot be missed. And that is because it is right next to the office of the boss.

The boss – the editor – Elizabeth Renkert.

Overlooking the luscious green Hyde Park, the antique church and the infamous Coca-Cola sign – Lizzie’s office has a personality. The minimalistic and white furniture compliments the bright and glamourous past-front covers of the magazine. It smelt like an editor’s office; humble, fruity, musky and stylish scent filled the air.

Behind a bare white door, with an average looking doorknob was a world of fashion dreams. It was Madison’s fashion cupboard. I only got to enter the clothing heaven once – to hang a delivery for an editorial – but it looked like something to die for. It wasn’t as big as seen on Sex and the City and Devil Wears Prada – but it was bigger than my closet, for sure.

One of the daily errands was to deliver the beautifully wrapped presents and well-written press releases to the desks of the Fashion and Beauty editors.
And the office that won the prize for accommodating the most products was that of the Beauty and Living Director, Stephanie Darling.

Her cluttered office, full of products and sample bags would be every girl’s dream location – but for Stephanie – all of them were screaming deadlines. For her, it wouldn’t be Chloe, Chanel, Tom Ford or Clinique; it would be December’s feature, January’s product review and February’s ‘luxe to less’.

I often found myself eavesdropping on the daily tasks and shoots of the fashion department. It was a little hard to catch up with some of the conversation as it was heavily smothered with brand names. I got somewhere between a Lebanon trip, Miu Miu bag, Becker Minty and Toni Maticevski.

It was overwhelming to be present in the same office as other talented women (and two men) who put their heart and soul into producing one of Australia’s top fashion magazines, every month. Being surrounded by such great writers and personalities made me realise that the world of fashion is not glamourous and dumb. Not even close to it. It is smart, intelligent, classy and extremely helpful.

A moment with my Idols

The most exciting aspect of my week was putting a face to all the names I read on the masthead, every month. After delivering letters and parcels to their desks, every day, I had pretty much stamped their faces in the memory chip of my brain.
I got the opportunity to speak to some of the most talented minds of the magazine.

  • The Associate Editor, Farrah Butt, and I shared a moment of laughter while we discussed her attempt at wearing contact lenses. This was followed by, me researching for her next feature (which sounds very engrossing, for those interested) and transcribing an interview.
  • The power of social media justified itself when the Deputy Features Editor, Alexandra Carlton, recognised my name from Twitter – on the very first day. I have never had more fun transcribing an interview, than what I did while doing a 25-minute interview about a beautiful Perth home. I will definitely be on a look out for that particular feature.
  • On a special request to Sophie, I got to have a nice, long chat with the Beauty Editor, Sherine Youssef, of Madison. Of course, I didn’t regret that decision. Not only was I given tips for my position as the ‘Beauty and Lifestyle Editor’, I also got an insight of what goes into the Beauty pages of the magazine.
    Who does what. What products are reviewed for what reasons. What events are seriously useless. And what looks are overrated. Whoever said Beauty editors are arrogant and up-themselves – eat your words, please.
  • I was sitting at a desk, frantically skimming through the health pages of magazines for ‘Mind’ and ‘Body’ news when I heard a subtle voice, “Ummm, hi”. I turned and there she was, my favourite beauty writer, Katrina Lawrence.

    Kat has been in the gloss industry for years and I have been admiring her beautiful writing style since I held my first ever Australian magazine. After moving from her table and sitting on the one next to her, I decided to break the ice and introduce myself.
    This was followed by a lovely, long chat with the talented lady about her work, my aspirations and our mutual acquaintances. The conversation ended with Kat telling me, “I hope to see your name around. It is a very distinctive name, I won’t be forgetting it!”

  • I was also fortunate enough to make a fool out of myself within the first 10-minutes of my presence in the office. The minute, the boss walked in, I could feel my smile widening from “I-am-comfortable-here” to “Oh-my-God-it-is-Lizzy-Renkert”.
      She’s looking at me and smiling.
      My instant reaction, “Hi, I’m Shitika”.
      She’s still smiling and walking, “I’m Lizzy!”
      I can see the words vomit out of my mouth – “Oh! I know”.

    Yikes!
    I will give you 2-minutes to stop laughing. That is all.

    Every day I delivered her packages, letters and newspaper on her desk, and I made sure I had my “I-am-comfortable-here” smile. I promise, I did. Like every work experience girl, I really wanted to enter her office and speak to her. I wanted my very own – Lizzie time!
    And on the last day, I got it. With a big beam on my face and a thumping heart – I entered the beautiful interiors of Lizzie’s office and spoke to her for a satisfying amount of time.

  • ________________________________________________________________________

    The past week has been like living a dream. I remember being 16, reading Cleo and dreaming about working in a world surrounded by such glamour. That was a teenage dream.

    Today, it means the world to me. I didn’t want to be there because I wanted to see a celebrity or scab some free products from the Beauty cupboard. I was there to be surrounded by inspiring people with beautiful success stories. I wanted to breathe magazine air. I wanted to see what goes behind the production of Madison.

    And I got it all.

    I have never valued photocopying more than I did last week. One day, I was Google searching celebrity wisdom quotes and the other, I was searching for the brand of Kylie Minogue’s shoes on the September issue cover.

    After several reader requests, transcriptions, mail orders and dock runs – I am even more than ready for my future. I am ready to take on the wacky and wonderful world of glossy magazines.

    Note: Thank you to everyone who I shared an elevator ride with and had ranting-coffee sessions at the ACP office. Thank you Sophie for giving me all the wonderful tasks. It was lovely working under you.

    Image Credit 1. 2. 3.

    When an opportunity knocks on your door : Madison Gig

    I remember coming to Sydney – 10 months ago – standing in front of 54, Park Street and saying “I want to work here one day”.

    If you have a raised-eyebrow look and don’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, then here’s a synopsis for you.

    54, Park St. Sydney = Head office of ACP magazine.

    ACP magazine is the publisher of Australia’s top magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Cleo, Dolly, Rolling Stone’s, Women’s Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, Madison and many more.

    It is the dream office of a fashion journalist. It is my dream office.

    There I was, standing in front of 54, Park St., dreaming about a potential career.

    And then it happened. I came one step closer to that dream. I scored a week-long work experience opportunity with one of Australia’s biggest fashion magazines.

    I will be strutting up the Park St. office on Monday morning, as an intern for Madison magazine in Sydney.

    I am thrilled, grateful, excited and very nervous. I flew down from Brisbane, in the middle of a uni semester, with a mindset of selling myself. Next week, I will be shoving modesty out of the window. I don’t just want to be in the ACP building and be a victim of free-products. I don’t want to be there just so that I can tell my friends that, “I was an intern for a fashion magazine”. I want to be there because I WANT TO BE THERE.

    I know I won’t be scoring a byline there but I plan to get a lot of business cards and meet plenty of wonderful people.

    I have read some amazing success stories of Sarah Ayoub, Gabby McMillan, Nicole Haddow and Bethilee Keamy. And they make me want to work harder and dream bigger.

    I will be publishing regular updates, as my week goes by. Make sure you come back to check them out.

    For now, i just need your luck and well wishes. 🙂

    Image Credit 1. 2.

    Happy Tears and Sweet Success

    Last week was dramatic. I woke up every morning with a killer headache, achy legs and bad dreams. Even though I was getting an average of four hours of sleep every night, they felt like none at all. It was stressful and tiring. I found myself whinging every single day.
    Last week was also life changing. I stood very close to a dream position that I have been aspiring towards since the past three years. It was a pitch for the role of an editor for FROCK. PAPER. SCISSORS. magazine.

    If you are clueless of what I’m talking about – let me help you out.

    FROCK 2009

    FROCK (follow link for online version) is an annual fashion magazine, published by the creative industries department of QUT. It is a product of QUT’s Fashion and Style Journalism unit where students, from different fields, collaborate to work on the magazine.
    The first time I read/heard about FROCK was when I was still deciding on whether I should pick QUT as my potential university. And FROCK was my answer. This might sound a little vain, but I remember looking at it and saying to my dad, “I will be the editor of this magazine, one day!”

    And this was it, the moment had come. Last wednesday I was due to pitch for my editorial position. After several tears, sleepless nights, cranky phone calls, long hours in Z block at QUT and tons of delirious moments – I did it. I pitched for the position and stepped out of the room with a heavy heart. It felt like someone had punched me in the face but didn’t leave a bruise. My pitch went terrible. I freaked out, didn’t say a few important things.

    And there it was, sprinting towards me, all the regret and questions about my chosen career. I started doubting every good moment of my life. You know how it goes, you just feel like hiding under your sheets and never want to show your face to the world.

    So this was last week… probably the most hectic week of the year.

    Until yesterday. That one phone call. That voice, on the other side of the phone, made me smile from ear-to-ear.

    I am now the BEAUTY AND LIFESTYLE EDITOR of Frock. Paper. Scissors. 2010!!!

    My role will not just be limited to the physical, hard-copy magazine – but also the online version. I’ll be deciding and approving beauty editorials, features and profiles. And hopefully get to write a few features myself. For me, fashion is not just about clothes – fashion is in music, mascaras, graffiti culture, technology and your lifestyle.

    And that’s my goal for FROCK – bringing out the fashionable side of everything, not just clothes.

    It’s all very exciting. I have so many ideas, so many fabulous contacts that I can use. The next 9 weeks (before the magazine launch) will be frantically exciting.
    And having looked at this year’s managerial team – I cannot wait for our first editorial meeting. Congratulations to everyone who got the roles they pitched for or didn’t pitch for (in my case)…. let the fabulous work begin!!!

    Image Credit 1. 2.