Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mom is CEO, First Lady & Role Model Rolled into One Pretty Package – NO Pressure!

In the past week, I have heard a rainbow of responses from mothers about what will transpire this Mother’s Day.  One of my girlfriends who is not a fan of Hallmark holidays absolutely dreads the day and would rather ignore it entirely. Another mom I chatted up in spin class said her Mother’s Day has never once been about her and instead is about placating her mother and mother-in-law.  At a luncheon I attended recently, I laughed out loud when I heard that in anticipation of Mother’s Day this mom surreptitiously added money to her daughter’s credit card in the hope of receiving a decent Mother’s Day gift. A mantra from most of the mothers I’ve talked to is that they simply do not want to spearhead the planning of their own Mother’s Day.  Their needs are simple.They want to sleep in and not be bogged down by questions and carpooling and other demands typically put upon them every other day of the year.  A mother who had the faintest idea of what was in store for her special day summed it up best when she told me, “You have to have zero expectations, so you aren’t disappointed.” 

Meanwhile, zero expectations is the complete antithesis of what a mom fulfills for her children on a nearly daily basis.  She is, after all, CEO of the household, First Lady of the family, and the original role model rolled into one pretty package. She is the go-to-gal for virtually everything.  Scraped knee, belly ache, hurt feelings, bruised heart?  No problem, she is on it with ice packs, hot compresses, an ear to listen, and a shoulder to lean on. She is a jack-of-all trades, superhero combining the expert skills of a doctor, lawyer, limo driver, plumber, housekeeper, chef, party planner, travel agent, and so much more.  She is a master scheduler and ninja multi-tasker.  When it comes to her children, nothing can stand in her way.  She will move mountains and part seas to protect them. She is a tiger mom, a soccer mom, and a mama bear armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a don’t-even-think-about-messing-with-me spirit. And that is why we love her!

Mom as role-model possesses an ethereal elegance. She is poised, composed, thoughtful, presentable, well-spoken, and, of course, well-mannered.  We hold her up on a pedestal and demand her absolute best all of the time.  Does this job come with a great deal of pressure?  You betcha!  Why do you think so many moms count the seconds until they can glean just one peaceful moment to down their wine devoid of interruption?  For all of these reasons and a thousand more, it is important to show mom the love on this day dedicated to her greatness and to recognize that with all of the amazing things she does, she is also human and she will make mistakes, grave mistakes every now and again.  

So today cut her some slack and shower her with the love she so rightly deserves.  Do a dish, take out the garbage, hold your tongue, set the table, pull out her chair, help her with her coat, give her a hug, and most importantly, say thank you and tell her how much you appreciate her.  That is guaranteed to put a smile on her face at least until…Father’s Day.  Don’t even get me started on moms many roles and responsibilities when it comes to the care and keeping of DAD!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Manners Monday – Paying Homage to the Purple Prince Whose Presence Transcended

I was a junior in high school when Purple Rain hit the theaters. I vividly remember driving my white VW Rabbit Convertible Cabriolet packed with friends to a downtown Los Angeles club blasting the soundtrack the entire way.  That movie, for me, like so many others, was a game changer.  As a child, my parents had introduced me to Bette Midler and I was memorized by her turn as Janis Joplin in The Rose. I was also a huge Barbra Streisand fan so I naturally fell in love with A Star Is Born. But those rock anthems, while incredibly powerful, felt too adult. Purple Rain, however, was the gospel for my generation. I saw the movie umpteen thousand times and listened to the music endlessly. I am positive I went to a Prince concert in my teens, but for some reason remember more vividly his performance many years later at a private Emmy party in West Hollywood that literally blew my mind.  I have never witnessed someone with such presence on stage. You could not take your eyes off him. His aura was other-worldly. His colorful style, musical acumen, effortless dance moves, and pitch-perfect vocals were incomparable.  It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.  In the last decade when I would hear a new Prince song on the radio it was immediately familiar and would take me right back to my youth.  His appeal never waned in my book nor did it with the masses as evidenced by the standing ovations he continuously received whether arriving like royalty at a basketball game or awarding the coveted Song of the Year at the Grammys.  No one would have guessed that this still relatively young man who was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and ate only Vegan would see his fate come abruptly to an end. The world was stunned so much so that national monuments across the globe were lit the color purple in his honor. As Jimmy Fallon proclaimed in the Saturday Night Live tribute, who else but Prince could take ownership of an entire color.  Over the weekend, artists from Jennifer Hudson to Bruce Springsteen paid homage to his royal purpleness covering hit after hit. While he may not have been perfect (there is now evidence of a hidden drug addiction that was kept under wraps for over 25 years) no one could argue the magical genius and the omnipresence that was Prince Rogers Nelson.  Here is just a taste of the many ways he influenced us with his incredible talent.

His impression was lasting. This man commanded presence and confidence when he walked in the room.  Crowds of people would stop in their tracks to watch his swagger.  He was a diminutive five foot two, but his platforms and charisma made him appear six feet tall. 

His attire set the tone.
  Boy, did Prince know how to dress!  He had an entire wing of Paisley Park dedicated to his handmade wardrobe with an around the clock designer and tailor.  He pushed boundaries wearing feminine clothes and high heels that somehow never compromised his masculinity.  He mixed and matched bright colors, fabrics, and accessories always with a highlight of his signature color, purple. He oozed sex appeal, but still maintained a certain elegance.

He had a demeanor that was endearing.
  He appealed to all audiences perhaps because he knew how to embrace both his masculine and feminine attributes.  He was able to write erotic love songs that would make women swoon while dressed in heeled boots and full makeup. While his persona onstage was energized and outrageous, off stage he was soft-spoken and exceptionally shy, always humble and gracious.

He had a tremendous work ethic. 
 Prince was constantly making new music to the point that his label, Warner Bros., created a vault filled with his never released songs. He performed and toured tirelessly sometimes doing a full concert followed by a club gig in the same evening.

His talent inspired others.
 He was a revolutionary who played every genre imaginable from pop, rock, and funk to jazz, blues, and soul.  He was a self-taught prodigy who composed, wrote and played all of the instruments on his first two albums. He was a deeply religious man who could astoundingly mix the holy and the sexy in the same song.  He was a major influence on so many other artists and wrote hit songs for everyone from Sheila E. and Chaka Khan to Sheena Easton, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, and the Bangles.  

He was full of passion and charitable deeds.
  He was a humanitarian who funded countless charities, helped underprivileged youth, and stepped up for famous friends. When director Spike Lee's budget skyrocketed on his Malcolm X movie, Prince was there to lend a monetary hand. When he felt a slave to his record label Warner Bros., he famously split from the label and changed his name to a symbol to protect his rights. When he was baptized a Jehovah's Witness in 2003, he went door-to-door on behalf of the ministry.  

Most importantly, he aspired to be a good person.  According to a public source, he was often heard saying, 'We have to be good people. It's important that we try to be good people.”  To that, I raise my glass to the Purple Prince and drink a sip in his memory.

My list of Prince Favorites:
Starfish & Coffee
If I Was Your Girlfriend
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
I Would Die 4 U
When Doves Cry
U Got the Look
Purple Rain
Let’s Go Crazy
Sign O the Times
Pop Life (Extended Mix)
The Beautiful Ones
Alphabet St.
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Get Off
Take Me With You
Darling Nikki
She's Always in My Hair
Soft & Wet

Monday, March 7, 2016

Manners Monday – Downton Abbey vs. The Donald – Goodbye Civility, Hello Chaos

I am truly sad. After six seasons, Sunday marked the end of an era here in the United States with the airing of the final episode of beloved PBS drama “Downton Abbey.” A show that held us to the highest standard and walked us through the beautiful lives of the British aristocracy has bid us adieu. It’s ironic that this critically acclaimed historical period masterpiece is leaving us at a time in our history when we need it most. We can no longer count on the Crawley family and their dutiful servants to lead us through a life of civility. Instead, we are faced with a climate filled with chaos particularly within our political process and led brazenly by Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump.  

As the owner of an etiquette consulting company, it has been exceptionally difficult to process the response Donald Trump has received from the masses. From the moment he threw his hat into the ring it’s been an endless round of insults, jabs, punches and blows. Where the occupants of Downton Abbey have been trained in the school of elegance, formality, and restraint, Donald Trump takes his cues from World Wrestling Entertainment repeatedly smacking down opponents and spewing offenses for pure entertainment. My husband happens to represent WWE wrestlers so I know from what I speak.  Somehow he has successfully pushed the limits well beyond comfort level appealing to the anger and disdain of our nation. Up to this point, his unorthodox behavior has been impervious to social norms making up his own rules with no subject, personal or professional, too taboo.  Whether he’s obnoxiously attacking an opponent on their physical features, unbelievably pretending not to hear a question involving KKK leader, David Duke, outrageously encouraging his supporters to raise their right hand and pledge their allegiance to his campaign, or peddling his personal brand of Trump products, he remains virtually unscathed and continues to crush in the polls. Astonishingly, he has single-handedly inspired more voter turnout than we’ve seen in the political system in recent history.  This guy’s on a winning streak that won’t end.

In preparation for the Downton finale, I viewed a double-feature of the “Manners of Downton Abbey” and “More Manners of Downton Abbey” which only served to underscore the many differences we are witnessing today in bold, high-definition color. From the style and grace that ruled their behavior to the gorgeous self-control that governed each movement and utterance. Not a step was taken or word was spoken without careful consideration and precision. Manners played an integral part of their daily lives. They provided structure, meaning and a code of conduct to live by - they were a rulebook to follow regardless of social class.  In stark contrast, we are witnessing a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants craziness laced with vulgarity and vibrato.  Manners are cast aside as an afterthought, while the disrupters, the rule-breakers and trouble-makers get things done.  So how do we make sense of this all?  How can we make peace with this shift in behavior?  Is there a sweet spot that lies somewhere in between the two?  In order to discover, let’s take a look at some of the key areas in which Downton and the Donald differ.

Downton Abbey:  A cool reserve was the definition of good character.  Formality took precedence over everything. A disciplined restraint was observed at all times. Accomplishments were downplayed and humility was favored.  There was a deep sense of honor and attention paid to tradition and customs.  
Donald Trump:  Good character means winning. He is attention-seeking and smug unabashedly sharing his list of accomplishments and conveniently forgetting his failures.  He doesn’t feel beholden to the traditions or customs of the political process preferring to make up his own rules as he goes. 

Downton Abbey. Careful consideration was given to how to speak, when to speak and what to say. Conversation was formal, indirect and devoid of emotion.  Words were used sparingly and methodically.  Vocabulary was intelligent and incredibly witty.
Donald Trump: His rhetoric is a symptom of our society today, uncensored and without filters.  It leans towards the simplified, the crass, and the monotonous. He is the king of catch-phrases, one-liners, and absurd attacks. He is quick to insult, brag, bully or be on the defense.  He does not back down and likes to have the final word.  

Downton Abbey: Body movements were kept to a minimum with posture stick straight whether sitting or standing.  Hand gestures and facial expressions were barely detectable. Nothing was done with haste. Confrontation was to be avoided at all costs.
Donald Trump: He prefers a big entrance. His boisterous movements are taken right out of the WWE playbook. His facial expressions are priceless and comical. He is quick to gesture and point.  He relishes in inciting the crowds and dissing his detractors. He thrives on the spectacle, showing energy and plenty of passion.

Downton Abbey: Money was never mentioned in polite conversation. Knowing your place in the social hierarchy was not privilege, it was a duty and, therefore, came with responsibility. It was rude to be snobbish.
Donald Trump: His wealth is repeatedly mentioned without an ounce of modesty or shame.  Whether he’s proudly defending his self-funded campaign, disputing his personal net worth, or touting the vast Trump brand, he fancies the flashy showing nothing but contempt for anything understated.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chris Rock’s the Diversity Controversy, but Thank You Ticker Misses the Mark - Red Carpet Manners at the 88th Academy Awards

There hasn’t been a more highly anticipated monologue than the one Chris Rock had riding on his shoulders at the 88th Academy Awards. The last time he hosted more than a decade ago, both Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman went home with awards, but for the second year in a row not a single person of color was nominated in the most prestigious categories prompting the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and tasking producers David Hill and Reginald Hudlin with the delicate balance of delivering a show that blended humor with honesty.  What better man to address the elephant in the room than Chris Rock whose infectious smile and endearing demeanor manage to pull us in even when he’s going for the jugular.  During his ten minute opening, Rock took jabs, both hilarious and poignant, at everything from the show’s name proclaiming it, “the White People’s Choice Awards” to those who urged him to back out of his hosting duties altogether, and both Jada and Will Smith who decided to boycott the show. He included a stereotypical man-on-the-street bit that bordered offensive and a montage of African American actors recast in this year’s top films that earned some of the night's biggest laughs. He made fun of the In Memoriam stating that it would be replaced this year with only “black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the movies,” and compared Hollywood casting to a sorority, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa!” While the awards show was down to an 8-year low in the ratings, Rock received mainly supportive reviews, with the exception of the Latino and Asian American communities who wondered why their efforts were not more mindfully included in the diversity controversy.  During the three and a half hour long show, here’s what stood out for us as red carpet manners hits and misses.

Red Carpet Fashions Flaunted Side Boob. The ladies were showing lots of skin at this year’s Oscars. With plunging necklines that went practically down to the navel on some (Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie) and breasts that were taped strategically into dresses (Olivia Wilde, Rachel McAdams, Heidi Klum), it definitely seemed there were two camps of style, those that chose feminine and frilly (Cate Blanchett, Alicia Vikander and Heidi Klum) and others that were more slicked back and severe (Rooney Mara, Daisy Ridley and Olivia Munn). There was a great deal of strapless dresses (Naomi Watts, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, Sophia Vergara, Tina Fey), embellishments (Emily Blunt, Alicia Vikander, and Cate Blanchett) and embroidered dresses (Jennifer Lawrence and Chrissy Teigen). Colors ranged from pastels (Cate Blanchett's sea foam green) and a spectrum of jewel tones (Olivia Munn's rich tangerine, Brie Larson's royal blue, and Saoirse Ronan's emerald) to winter white (Lady Gaga’s architecturally-inspired ensemble). Most guys opted for the classic man look (Eddie Redmayne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bryan Cranston) while the usual suspects took fashion risks to stand out (Jared Leto). Effortless hair was a trend on the red carpet (Margot Robbie, Heidi Klum, Saoirse Ronan, Kate Winslet), as well as flashing tattoos (Whoopi Goldberg).

Red Carpet Reveals. We noticed an extremely spacey Jennifer Jason Leigh offering a rather lackluster red carpet interview with host Ryan Seacrest. Priyanka Chopra divulged that she pre-recorded the names of the people in her category prior to presenting so that she would not butcher them live on awards night.  Olivia Wilde was coached not to hug anyone lest she stain her white Valentino dress, and when grilled by Billy Bush, Olivia Munn credited Japanese potatoes with giving her glowing skin.

The Night of 100 Important Issues. With an audience in the multi-millions, the Oscars is the perfect platform to share important issues and the winners and other powers-that-be know this all too well. From the smaller, sweeter encouragements like that of the Best Animation winner who inspired kids to channel their angst into creativity to the larger appeals like that of “The Big Short” director/co-writer Adam McKay, whose message to big banks rang loud and clear. Cheryl Boone Isaacs so eloquently set the tone for the evening exclaiming that today’s audience is "global and rich in diversity" and therefore the film industry should accurately reflect this world going forward into the future. Vice-President, Joe Biden made a call to action for victims of sexual assault as he introduced Lady Gaga who performed a song for the documentary film, The Hunting Ground. Sam Smith, who won for Best Original Song, stood loud and proud as he hoped all citizens of the gay community would be considered equals one day. Leonardo DiCaprio’s acceptance speech for Best Actor in “The Revenant” presented him with an opportunity to discuss a matter close to his heart - the threat of climate change, while the producer for Best Picture “Spotlight” was able to thank journalists for helping to stop sexual abuse in the clergy. 

Standing Ovation Suspense. There was a bit of confusion among audience members as to whether to stand for Vice-President Biden as he took the stage, but Louis Gossett Jr. took the lead and then other’s quickly followed suit.  Lady Gaga and her tribute to the many survivors of abuse garnered the next deserving standing ovation followed by ‘King of the World’ Leonardo DiCaprio for his 6th nomination and win for Best Actor.

Utterly Gracious Upsets. Different from other awards shows, the camera lens was a bit more generous not lingering on nominees who lost to exploit there reaction.  We imagine it must be most difficult to lose in a category that the media and everyone else in the world has insisted was a sure thing. To be gracious, smile and wear a brave face as Sylvester Stallone did when he lost the Best Supporting Actor award to Mark Rylance is a test of resilience.  Eight-time nominee Diane Warren who lost the Best Song category with collaborator Lady Gaga found it a bit more difficult to mask her feelings as the camera caught her visibly upset at the snub.

A Few Awkward Moments. Undeniably, the most bizarre moment of the evening arrived when Chris Rock invited Stacy Dash to the stage. In a joke that was a little too inside, the former “Clueless” actress and current Fox News outspoken contributor made a facetious move in support of Black History Month that was completely lost on the audience.  Dumbfounded, the silence was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. In another bid to coax a smile, Rock brought onstage his Girl Scout daughter and friends to solicit cookie purchases and boost sales for the Girl Scouts of America. We witnessed a similar version of this when Ellen DeGeneres arranged for pizzas to be delivered two years ago that was much more original. Finally, when it came time for the annual introduction of the Price Waterhouse Coopers accountants responsible for keeping the Oscars ballots safe, Rock poked fun of Asian Americans by welcoming three pint-sized versions with briefcases instead. Needless to say, this incited a storm of backlash on social media.  

Thank You Scroll Attempts to Serve Purpose.  In years past, frequently flustered winners have struggled to remember the names of the important people who helped them along the way so producers Hudlin and Hill tried to remedy the problem by requesting nominees to submit a list of names beforehand to ensure thanks to all.  What was a well-intentioned endeavor to feature the names of executives and agents across the bottom of the screen may not have helped to curb the length of acceptance speeches. We noticed many of the winners ignoring the scroll and giving gushing speeches that thanked everyone on their team anyway.  In some ways, the thank you ticker became more of a distraction, especially if you were tempted like I was to read the names scrolling by at warp speed rather than focus on the person giving thoughtful thanks on screen.  The bottom line, it will always be more heartfelt and meaningful to say a name out loud.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Manners Monday - How to Mix & Mingle - Socializing Skills for Shrinking Violets & Social Butterflies

Mixing and mingling have been on my mind.  Perhaps it is due to the bevy of stars who will flock to our fair city to schmooze at one of the highly coveted pre-Oscar and Oscar parties this week or possibly as a result of a recent tea party of mothers and daughters I attended in which we were all called upon to bring our most gregarious selves, but it has become abundantly clear how important it is to understand the fine art of socializing. 

Not that everyone needs to learn how to make an entrance and work a room like a Kardashian, but gaining a little knowledge into how to break the ice, keep the conversation flowing, and establish a connection, could benefit younger people and help them in a multitude of social situations as they grow into maturity.  Whether they are a shrinking violet or a social butterfly, there is a formula to feeling confident in social gatherings that is beneficial to everyone. 

Springtime is actually a perfect occasion to test the waters.  Spring dances and formals are plentiful and offer loads of opportunity for practice.  Having these etiquette tools in your child’s arsenal can make all the difference as to whether they will sit on the sidelines watching or be active participants engaged and enjoying themselves at the party. And, isn’t that all we really want for our kids regardless of their age?  Here are a few simple steps to maximize their people skills in any setting. 

Eat a Light Bite Beforehand.  Before attending any social event, eat a small amount of food so that you are satiated and will not be starving.  This will ensure that your focus is on mingling and meeting new people rather than on how much food or beverages you will consume.

Act as if You Belong.  There is nothing more powerful than the feeling of confidence when you enter a room.  Acting as if you belong allows you to internalize a warm feeling of welcome and exude outward self-assurance to others. 

Break the Ice.  When you enter the room, scan the crowd for key people you would like to make contact with. Smile warmly at anyone who meets your eye.  These may be friends in your class, your peers, or other people you may not know, but would like to meet.  Approach them slowly as if you have all the time in the world and nowhere else you’d rather be.

Shake Hands with Everyone.  Exchanging pleasant hellos and handshakes is a wonderful way to greet those you know and those you wish to meet. A handshake is a three part process that involves a friendly smile, direct eye contact, and a firm shake web-to-web.

Look for an Opening.  Start by approaching a small group of people who've left some physical space for newcomers. If they're in the middle of an animated conversation, walk up and just listen for a while. Slowly add relevant comments of your own until you become an equal contributor to the conversation. 

Maintain Personal Space.  When conversing, you should stand at a distance of about 18 inches apart (an arm’s length) to allow others their sphere of personal space.  Just be sure to speak audibly so that people do not have to lean in to hear you. 

Be a Good Listener.  A good conversation begins with active listening. Ask considerate questions that prompt thoughtful answers. Asking questions is an excellent way to begin a conversation and conveys interest.  Stay present so that you are not showing signs of boredom or preparing what to say next in your head. 

Make Riveting Conversation. The key to riveting conversation is to be equal parts interesting and interested.  Brush up on current events, local culture and the latest in sports, weather, movies, books and music, prior to any social outing so that you may make conversation with anyone, anywhere. 

Work the Room. Social settings are meant to spend time with people we know, but also ideal occasions to make connections with as many new people as possible.  When working the room in smaller gatherings, it is best to circulate and engage in conversation with everyone. For larger gatherings, focus on a few key people and instigate conversation with them.

Give Em a Graceful Ending. A graceful ending is just as important as the conversation itself.  Before parting, take a moment to express how much you enjoyed meeting.  This is the time to exchange information if you would like to remain in contact, otherwise a cordial, “It was really nice meeting you” will always leave a positive impression. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Tribute Heavy Night Laced with Lackluster & Luminous Moments – Red Carpet Manners at the 58th Grammy Awards

Grammy producer extraordinaire, Ken Ehrlich, had his hands full figuring out how to incorporate the five collaborative performances honoring each of the musical greats who passed away within the year. There was no doubt they were going to need every minute of the three-hour plus program to properly pay homage to legends B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Glenn Frey, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie and Maurice White. Veteran host LL Cool J laid the foundation for the evening proclaiming the awesome power of music and praised the Grammys for being the only awards show that does not allow lip syncing. This of course garnered a big laugh from the audience who knows of his newfound fame as the MC of Spike TV's hugely popular Lip Sync Battle. Once the pleasantries were out of the way, it was time to get down to business and who better than to set the bar for the evening than T-Swift with her gorgeous looks and gifted pipes.  She opened the show dressed in a sequined jumpsuit to sing her hit "Out of the Woods," a collaboration with Jack Antonoff of fun. Owning the stage, she looked directly into the camera nailing each move and hitting each note with perfection.

Unfortunately, the show went downhill and uphill from there with an alternating mix of lackluster and luminous moments. The normally spot-on pairings we look forward to at the Grammy’s somehow went sideways this year.  It was a mashup of odd pairings and musical no-shows. The duet between country stars Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood fell flat and the lineup for the Lionel Ritchie tribute while packed with individual talent felt particularly odd. Rihanna who was scheduled to perform had to pull the plug at the last minute due to doctors’ orders and Lauryn Hill who was supposed to join forces with the Weeknd left him fending for himself. Technical difficulties also played a part making powerhouses Adele and Justin Bieber sound flat and flailing about for a note. Still there were several luminous moments that hit just the right tone. Chris Stapleton's rendition of B.B. King's "The Thrill is Gone" featuring Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt was outstanding and I could watch Little Bit Town sing "Girl Crush" a hundred times and it wouldn't get old. Kendrick Lamar's exhausting poetic performance gave us heart palpitations in a good way and Brittany Howard, frontwoman for Alabama Shakes, put incredible depth and feeling into an impassioned "Don't Wanna Fight." We weren't especially upset when the final production number front lined by Pitbull with a special appearance by Sophia Vergara along with Robin Thicke, Travis Barker and Joe Perry, was cut short by the rolling credits. Too many sparkles, not enough substance for our taste. Here's the rest of our recap on the nights red carpet manners hits and misses. 

Rings & A Rainbow on the Red Carpet.  Never one to disappoint on the red carpet, the artists were decked out in every color of the rainbow from canary yellow to blue tanzanite, but the color that continues to have the biggest impact in the music biz is black. Tove Lo (complete with silver nose ring), Adele, Anna Kendrick, Elle King, Jazmine Sullivan, Meghan Trainor and Carrie Underwood all wore various looks. Dresses in general ranged from the subdued to the sublime. Florence Welch won the most blah dress award in a pale pink long-sleeve gown from Gucci and we were not a fan of Beyonce’s white lace wedding dress from designer Inbal Dror's dress. Selena Gomez, however, got our attention with a jewel-toned cutout sequined dress from Calvin Klein. Both Taylor Swift dressed in Versace Atelier and Kimberly Schlapman wore nearly matching ensembles of fuchsia and tangerine.  Ellie Goulding looked playful and elegant in a low back blush-colored gown by Stella McCartney. At the Grammy’s, the men also come dressed to kill. Hunky Sam Hunt got into the spirit with a pink colored suit by Dolce & Gabbana while John Legend, Common and Charlie Puth wore black tuxes with embellishments. Diplo and Sam Smith were rather debonair in navy suits complete with pin and pocket square accessories. Black and white tuxes were also popular and worn by everyone from Fetty Wap and Big Sean to Justin Bieber. Never to shy away from bold color, Bruno Mars wore a plum colored blazer and vest with matching fedora while Lady Gaga channeled the late David Bowie with a sapphire Marc Jacobs coatdress. The most noticeable accessory this year? Rings and lots of them, even multiple on every single finger as shown by everyone from Andra Day to Ellie Golding and Tove Lo. 

A Trio of Mismatched Duets. Sam Hunt is one of my favorite country breakout stars and he’s not bad to look at either, but the chemistry between him and the equally eye pleasing Carrie Underwood was as mismatched as their attire. Carrie’s skimpy dress and overly glowing skin was equally distracting.  Andra Day and Ellie Goulding was another odd pairing that attempted to blend the breathy vocals of the British singer with the weighty bravado of her American counterpart. I could say more, but I was too busy looking at Ellie’s overly plump lips. Is she already getting injections at her age? She's only 29 for goodness' sake! Justin Bieber and Jack Ü (otherwise known as Diplo & Skrillex) experienced major sound difficulties that left Biebers vocals flat. I loved "Where Are You Now?" on the radio, but don’t think it's meant to be translated on to the live stage. Some songs simply sound better in a club.

Stick to the Singing Please. Arianna Grande may wish to work on her presenting skills.  She is getting older now, a whole 22 years of age, and it’s time to drop the little girl voice and tighten up her vocabulary. The best part of her presentation was when she broke out in song to introduce fellow artist and collaborator, the Weeknd singing, he "Earned It."

Resting Audience Face. You’ve heard of RBF (resting bitch face), well awards show audience members must become more aware of their resting audience face.  We caught many offenders in action throughout the show. Everyone from Pharrell to Sam Smith were looking less than thrilled when the camera lens panned a sweeping eye across the room. When Alabama Shakes won for Best Rock Song, Elle King did not applaud or look happy.  Artists must remember that unless they're seated in the nose bleed section, they must assume the camera is pointed towards them. That means no chewing gum, clapping and supporting fellow artists, bopping to the music, and smiling along at all times (even if it means through gritted teeth.)

A Night of Standing Ovations – Audience members must have been working their thigh muscles throughout the evening with standing ovations for every single one of the tribute songs, as well as for outstanding performances and winners.  Kendrick Lamar was the first to receive one followed by practically every other artist who took the stage thereafter. At one point, it seemed that no one in the audience knew whether to sit or simply stand for the remainder of the show. 

Tributes Galore.  The Eagles may have been singing “Take it Easy” to the late Glenn Frey, but it was a distressed looking Don Henley that had us feeling very somber. Jackson Brown did his best to front the band, but it just wasn’t the same without the singer songwriter. Lady Gaga in all her regalia did her darndest to honor rock icon David Bowie during the 10-song medley, but came across a bit more like a punk Elvis on steroids. Sorry Nile Rodgers, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Emotional Shout-Outs. Stevie Wonder had some fun taunting the audience when he read the name of the category winner in Braille, but then took a more serious turn by saying, "We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability." Here, here! Taylor Swift who swept up her second Album of the Year award had her own agenda to share as she encouraged young women to work hard and reach for the stars and not be deterred by naysayers who will try to sabotage you. Her words of encouragement were strong and resonating. And, Neil Portnow and Common made their feelings known by taking a stand for the people behind the music who receive practically pennies from streaming services for all their hard work. 

Heartfelt Acceptance Speeches. A surprised Ed Sheeran finally received the Best Song award for "Thinking Out Loud" sincerely thanked his parents for believing that he would one day win. Meghan Trainor was equally flabbergasted to win Best New Artist and also thanked everyone from LA Reid to her mom and dad through a steady stream of joyful tears. The Grammys went east coast with a win for Hip Hop musical Hamilton. Still haven't seen the show, but was mesmerized when a well-prepared Lin-Manuel Miranda's proceeded to rap his acceptance speech.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine’s Day Gift Giving Etiquette - A Pressure Cooker Smothered in High Expectations

Talk about putting on the pressure, the Valentine’s Day gift giving ritual is smothered in high expectations. A seemingly innocent gift from an amour is subject to all kinds of scrutiny that may be dissected and analyzed for years to come. Whether you’re dating or in a committed relationship, the gift is a symbol of the amount of love in the relationship. It is an oil and water check telling us how things are going.  If the connection is in good standing or if we’re headed off a cliff.  Did your mate spend hours pounding the pavement or just a few seconds scouring an online store?  Have they listened closely to your likes and dislikes to select a gift that is most meaningful to you or did they choose something purely for convenience’ sake?  One thing is certain, no one wants to spend the day dedicated to love fighting, or worse, breaking up over a gift that felt insensitive or phoned in. With only two days left, we've compiled a quick list of the most popular Valentine’s Day gift giving dos and don’ts to point your cupid's arrow in the right direction and inspire a day of happiness and passion for all. 

Chocolates. Dark or milk? Plain or nuts? Sees or Godiva?
Don’t: Don’t tempt your loved one with a large box of fattening chocolates, especially if they've been working like a dog to stick to a diet. You want them focus to be on you not spending the night complaining about how fat they look in their skinny jeans.
Do: Opt for gourmet bite-sized dark chocolate morsels with sea salt instead.  These are not only more healthy and satisfying, they are an aphrodisiac too. 

Flowers. To vase or not to vase, that is the question.
Don’t: Avoid the supermarket route cellophane-wrapped flowers complete with the sticker still on. This is a dead giveaway that you waited until the last minute. 
Do: Find out their favorite flower and have an arrangement displayed in a striking vase or present them with a box of long-stemmed beauties. If selecting roses, stay away from the yellow friendship ones. Red is the symbol of romance. If flowers aren't their thing, take a cue from Rachael Ray and wrap up their favorite food item instead. 

Jewelry. This is an investment. Do your due diligence.
Don’t: Purchase CZ’s and try to pass them off as diamonds or splurge on something big and extravagant when all they want is a delicate pendant or handcrafted leather bracelet. Unmarried? Avoid presenting a ring in a box which might be mistaken for a proposal.
Do: Know their taste or confer with a close friend before making any major purchases. Find out if they prefer rose gold, yellow gold, silver or platinum or none of the above.  Getting exactly what they want will thrill them and elminate a next day return.

Lingerie. Who is this gift really for?
Don’t: Use this as an excuse to visit an erotic lingerie store or pick up a prop right out of Fifty Shades of Grey. They might question your sudden interest and doubt their performance in the boudoir. On the flipside, a conservative bathrobe might make them feel old.
Do: Find the goldilocks gift.  Something tasteful, yet sexy.  Know their correct size.  Nothing too big or too small.  Something red or pink sends a loving message that you're ready for a night of fun. 

Accessories.  A smart handbag, shoes or a scarf? Go for the luxury brand.
Don’t: Bring home a fake and try to convince them it’s real. All luxury brands come with a card of authenticity.  Go this route and your partner will think you are incredibly cheap.
Do: Splurge on an item they're sure to appreciate. If you are working within a budget, there are plenty of beautiful accessories in all price ranges. It is much more wise to find something small, yet sophisticated.

Gift Cards. Tread carefully with these plastic babies.  
Don’t: Purchase any old gift card at the checkout stand. While they may need to stock up on household supplies, a gift card to Target hardly screams romance. Nor does a gift card to Starbucks, AMC Theatres or any other practical venue.
Do: Purchase a gift card from a spa that offers a unique experience or opportunity for your honey to rejuvenate and relax. Compliment the card with a small accompanying gift and you’ll get brownie points for going the extra mile. 

No matter how your mate expresses their appreciation, your job is to receive all gifts graciously with a giant smile. Choose to be grateful for your relationship on this day celebrating love. Realize that above everything else, that is the greatest gift of all! 

Read more.