Monday, June 6, 2016

Manners Monday - National Business Etiquette Week 2016

Yesterday marked the beginning of a week-long period devoted to national business etiquette.  At a time in history where an inordinate amount of chaos and turmoil continues, the demand for business etiquette courses has steadily risen. This is no surprise to us.  

The casual way employees engage, the loss of articulate writing, the inability to read subtle social cues has caused concern among many business owners. Couple this with the mass appeal of social media and a pandora's box of ways in which executives and employees can go awry, it's no wonder the corporate tide is leaning towards a return to a more conventional style of conducting business.

National Business Etiquette Week 2016 may be just seven days, but its purpose is to raise our awareness in the workplace and uphold the standards of civility and courtesy all year long. Restoring these simple acts of kindness and respect to their primary position is the only way to earn trust and gain credibility both nationally and within the global arena.

Whether paying attention to a co-workers personal space or learning how to give a world-class handshake, business manners do matter and this particular skill-set has become an increasingly valuable commodity for new hires as well as job retention. To test your etiquette quotient, we have compiled a list of 20 questions and answers that should give you a jump start on good business this summer. Good luck!

1. Preparing for a night out of networking? Be equal parts interesting and interested. Listen more than you talk. Think before you speak. End the conversation as graciously as you initiated it.
2. Attending the weekly marketing meeting and expecting an urgent call?  Notify your colleagues beforehand. Put your phone on vibration mode, place it on your lap or in your pocket and give your co-workers your undivided attention. When the call comes, excuse yourself and handle it quickly.
3. Courting a prospective client with an invitation to lunch?  Arrive early to set the stage and hand your credit card to the host so that they may process payment and avoid presenting the check at the end of the meal.
4. Should you accept your boss’ invitation to ‘Friend’ you on Facebook?  Yes, however, do so with care and create a separate group for work and tag it with the name of your company then filter only professionally related content.
5. Wondering whom should shake first in the workplace? In a professional setting, the host or the higher ranking person should initiate the handshake regardless of gender. The first to thrust their hand out is always perceived to be the most confident.
6. When hosting an important business meal, where should you seat your honored guest? The honored guest is always seated on your immediate right.
7. Want to avoid miscommunication when sending a text or email?  Since you are unable to see the person face-to-face, avoid firing off a flippant answer. Read your messages and responses for tone and send complete, clear communications.
8. Important interview for your dream job? Scour your social media for any red flags. Anything that defames your image should be wiped clean.  
9. Having trouble remembering names? Remembering names is an excellent skill to cultivate. Commit a name to memory by repeating it at least three times. Once during the introduction, a second time when making conversation, and finally, when saying goodbye.  
10. Want to outclass your competition? Become best friends with your stationery and write thank you notes. Whether you are following up on an introduction, interview or meeting, nothing conveys your appreciation better.
11. Should a male work colleague offer to seat a female co-worker at a business lunch? It is a thoughtful gesture, but not necessary as men and women are considered equals in the workplace.
12. Can I make casual Friday’s an everyday occurrence? Whatever your work, you want to be taken seriously. It’s always best to dress for the job you aspire to possess. Take pride in what you wear, especially in formal professional situations.
13. Where should you wear your nametag? Your nametag is always placed on the right side of your chest to make shaking hands and reading someone’s nametag one smooth action.
14. Working from home?  Get out of your PJ’s! Don’t let comfort get the best of you. Dress to create an atmosphere of professionalism, it will upgrade your phone voice and you’ll be ready to head out the door for a breakfast meeting in a moment’s notice.
15. Want to present your business card to a work colleague Before handing your card, ask for his or hers first, then present the card with your right hand and with the type facing toward the recipient.
16. Wondering how to approach your co-worker in their cubicle? Knock verbally when walking into their open office, especially if they are focused on their work. Step into their line of vision so they don’t have to scan the entire room to find you.
17. Tempted to respond to your boss’ weekend email? Don't be available 24/7. It’s perfectly okay to establish boundaries and respond the next day. It will set a precedent and your boss will respect you for it.
18. Making an important business introduction? Show respect by standing for all introductions. Adhere to the rules of the established hierarchy from top to bottom. Remember, the client always comes first.
19. Want to convey confidence and authority in all business transactions? Don’t withhold when it comes to handshaking – the ultimate greeting. For a world class handshake, extend the right hand with the thumb facing up and fingers extended out. Shake with two pumps and then release.
20. Conducting business with individuals from other countries? Err on the side of formality. Address them by their titles and full names. Familiarize yourself with a few key facts about their culture and customs, and educate yourself on their cuisine and dietary restrictions.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Manners Monday - Graduation Etiquette: Say Goodbye with Grace & Seize an Attitude of Gratitude

Graduation is upon our family in a huge way.  The next two weeks my daughters will be moving on from Elementary School and Middle School respectively and we will be saying goodbye to their private school education and welcoming in a new era of public school. The occasion is going to be bittersweet. We have met some incredible families whom we love and will be sad to leave, but we are also looking forward to having our girls attend school in a slightly less competitive environment that is located close to home and with a bit more diverse makeup that is more representative of the real world.  Don't get me wrong, they are still going to school in one of the best zip codes in the world - Beverly Hills 90210 - however contrary to mass perception, not everyone owns a private jet and shops on Rodeo Drive. Old apartment buildings line the city and many families can rent for a fraction of the cost of owning a home and still send their kids to the schools. It's not as if we're leaving the state, but it will be different. There is still a stigma associated with public school. Years ago, it was the other way around and only the problem children were sent to private. Now private is for the privileged and public is the ugly stepsister.  But, the tide is slowly turning and more families are warming up to the idea, especially those who meticulously follow the matriculation rates and realize that if their kids are not in the top 1% at private, they may actually have a better chance of getting into an Ivy League from a public education.  But I digress...

Graduating from school is a big deal at any age. With tuitions hitting record highs and academic standards reaching new plateaus, the pressure cooker to stay in school and get good grades can be debilitating. It demands a student’s fierce dedication and a family’s unwavering commitment. As a show appreciation and sign of respect to everyone who has helped you to prepare for this day, here are 7 ways for the graduate to say goodbye with grace and seize an attitude of gratitude.  

1. Cordially Invite.  Eschew the electronic invite in favor of customized printed invitations to distribute to family members and close friends two months in advance.  While you want to make everyone feel special, tickets are typically limited to attend the ceremony. Circumvent hurt feelings by making sure all guests receive an invitation to the celebration afterward.  

2. Dress To Impress.  Although you may be covered from head to toe in cap and gown, graduates should dress to impress in appropriate commencement attire. Ladies should wear a dress, slacks or skirt with a nice blouse. Flats or low heeled shoes for comfort and safe walking.  Limit accessories to only those that are necessary. Gentlemen should wear dress pants or khakis with pressed button-down shirts and a belt.  Tied shoes or loafers for footwear.  If applicable, caps are worn flat on the head with the tassels on the right side unless otherwise instructed for photos, etc. Caps are removed by gentlemen only as a sign of respect during the National Anthem.

3. Glean Jewels from Commencement Speeches.  This is not the time to take a snooze. Put down your phone, sit up straight, perk up your ears, and lean in.  After years of schooling, you must now apply what you’ve learned in the real world and that is no simple task. The commencement speech delivers the goods on exactly what it will take to not only survive, but thrive.  Legendary commencement speakers offer priceless pearls of wisdom that still resonates.  Listen with intent, take the advice to heart and aspire to live up to the standard your education has provided you.  

4. Receive the Diploma in a Dignified Manner.  You will rehearse countless times how to approach the stage to receive your diploma, but here are a few extra pointers to be mindful of. Posture, posture, posture! Stand tall, shoulders down and back and walk with dignity being careful not to trip on your gown. Make good eye contact, administer a solid handshake with your right hand using two pumps, and use your left hand to accept the diploma. If applicable, move the tassel on your cap if directed by the photographer and be sure to smile with your eyes, as well as your teeth.  Continue offstage confidently and return to your seat. 

5. Split Time Sensibly between Guests & Grads.  Guests have come far and wide to witness the occasion and they deserve a little quality time and undivided attention before running off to party with your friends. If your family is hosting a celebratory luncheon or dinner on your behalf, make it your mission to be charming, gracious, interesting, interested and grateful.  Connect with each guest and personally thank them for coming.

6. Allocate Announcements.  If you have extended family and friends whom you’d like to share in your joyous occasion, limit announcements to those who actually know you are graduating.  “No gifts please” should be added so recipients understand this is purely a gesture to include them in your achievement.

7. Handwrite Appreciation.  Hopefully, you own personalized stationery or a have a box of thank you notes stashed in your drawer as you are going to need it. Thank you notes should be written within a one to two-week period.  Monetary gifts may include a sentence on how the money will be used such as towards future savings or special purchase. Being the gracious graduate you are, an expression of gratitude will also be mailed to those who came to support you but did not bring a gift.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Manners Monday - From the Promposal to the After-Party, Prom Night Done Right!

It was 1985, senior year and I asked my on-again, off-again boyfriend who was two years older and had already graduated high school, to escort me to the prom.  At Beverly Hills High School, prom was held in the same ballroom as the Golden Globes.  We had a very large class of about 600 students so we required a big space.  Finding the right dress for the occasion was no small feat.  My mother took me to a seamstress on Rodeo Drive who would make a royal blue taffeta strapless ensemble straight out of a John Hughes film.  I dyed my satin Charles Jordan shoes to match and embellished them with rhinestone clip-on hearts to complement my rhinestone earrings. You gotta love the 80’s! 

Things seemed so much simpler back then. Prom goers were forced to relate to one another in person in real time. Your date had to actually walk to the front door to meet and greet you along with your parents. They made good eye contact, shook hands, and engaged in polite small talk before heading out for the evening. Requisite photos were taken on good old-fashioned 35mm cameras and we were forced to wait for what-felt-like-forever for the film to be developed.  No one took selfies.  If we wanted a photo of ourselves, we handed the camera over to someone else to take it.  Our attire, while totally cheesy, was wholesome and age appropriate, not revealing or distasteful. Transportation consisted of three to four couples pitching in and piling into a stretch limo for the night. This was vastly different from the SUV's and Uber's that blanket our streets today.  The Grand Ballroom at the hotel was decorated with a sea of sixty inch round tables adorned with balloons, carnation centerpieces, and a ton of confetti. We chatted and we danced. Sometimes we were too cool for school, but we stayed until the bitter end.  After the prom, most of my friends headed to Palm Springs, but my boyfriend and I opted for Lake Arrowhead. I still recall the hike we took and the photo of the two of us sitting on a rock in the sun.  I was in heaven.  Wish I could find those photos. They’re probably nestled deep down in a drawer with my other embarrassing teenage memories. 

Prom in 2016 is an entirely different animal.  From pretentious promposals and designer dresses to luxurious pampering and stylish hotels, the sky’s the limit for today’s precocious teens. But there are also a million ways a prom can turn sour, the hashtag #ruinpromin4words recently trended on Twitter recounting all types of bad behavior.  My advice, enjoy this rite of passage by leaving a lasting and positive impression.  Here’s how to do prom right from the initial ask to the final goodnight.

The Ask. Asking a date to prom has changed dramatically from private inquiry to a public announcement.  Gone are the days when a suitor would pick up the phone or present a rose to a potential date in person. Now, they spend hours scouring the internet for unique ways to craft an unforgettable 'promposal' to rival the most outrageous wedding proposal. Whether it comes in the form of an announcement made live on national morning television or written in the sky via plane, it must be done well in advance or certainly by the time tickets go on sale.  Don’t even think about emailing or texting, these 'asks' occur in front of a full audience with plenty of fanfare and witnesses. Saying yes is easy, it’s turning down an offer that requires grace. A simple, I appreciate you thinking of me...but I’ve already made other plans/will be going with my best friend/decided to go with a group, will suffice.  And, there is no hall pass for better offers. Once you commit to a prom date, stick to it.   Even if it’s the potential love of your life, this is non-negotiable.  Be your word and make the best of the evening.  The good karma g-ds will smile kindly upon you.

The Attendance. Not all prom goers are happily coupled at event time nor are they forced into traditional male/female relationships. Some may choose to go solo (a la Pretty in Pink) or attend as part of a larger group (Girl’s Night anyone?) while others representing the LGBTQ community may arrive with a partner of the same gender. All preferences are welcome as most schools are becoming increasingly conscious to make everyone feel comfortable and included.

The Funds.  Prom costs can range from bare minimum to the extravagant depending upon budget and taste.  Discuss with parents an overall amount and then plug in the hard costs from the promposal to the after party including the attire, the transportation, the prom tickets, the flowers, the food and the photos. If an overnight stay is on the table, factor in the accommodations as well.  On average, a prom these days can set you back $900.00 when all is said and done. But do not feel pressure to break the bank, there are less expensive options for every detail. Apply a bit of creativity and style and no one will be the wiser.  

The Attire.  Girls are no longer adhering to the strict floor length dress codes and gone are the days of the matching satin baby blue cummerbund and bow tie for guys.  In terms of attire, stylistic license is more acceptable as long as it is tasteful and appropriate.  Fashion forward girls have been known to don a formal suit or tux for the occasion! The invitation dictates the clothing and certain rules still apply. Formal dress demands a tuxedo and knee to floor length gown. For semi-formal attire, only a sports jacket and short dress is expected. Whether two-piece or sleek and minimal, be mindful of cut out’s and cleavage.  To color-coordinate with your date, a swatch may be provided.

The Dough.  Who Pays? Back in the day, it was traditional for the gentleman to pay for the tickets to attend prom. In today’s times, technically, whomever poses the question should pay. The key is to communicate with your date and your parents as to who will foot the bill for what. Typically, each party will pay for their flowers, grooming, attire and accessories. A word to the wise gents - whatever you do, do not ask your date to go Dutch.

The Flowers.  It is part of the prom tradition for dates to present flowers to one another. Gentlemen purchase corsages to be placed on the wrist or the dress of the girls and ladies purchase boutonnieres to be placed on their date’s jacket.  The purpose of this ritual and exchange helps to set the tone for the evening. Upon arrival, a gentleman presents the corsage by opening the box for his date.  To properly assist your date with her corsage, turn the inside of her arm facing up and then gently slip it onto her wrist.  This will help prevent damage to the flowers. If she prefers to pin the corsage to the bodice or shoulder strap of her dress, ask whether she would like assistance.  Ladies will offer to pin the boutonniere on the left lapel of the gentlemen’s jacket.  When it comes to what to choose, the couple should take a trip to the florist to determine design and color to match each other, as well as their outfits.  Pick up for both should occur on the day of the prom to ensure the flowers are at their freshest. For bonus points, gentleman may wish to purchase a small bouquet or wristlet for the mother of his date as well.

The Wheels.  Selecting which type of transportation to arrive at prom in style is an important decision that should be discussed between the couple. In some cases the school may provide a bus, however most arrange a private bus (the Mercedes version) for a group of friends or car and driver for just a few couples.  Uber or Lyft is a third option for those who want to ride alone, have flexibility, and keep costs down. Regardless of which type of wheels you choose, the same rules apply. A gentlemen allows the lady to enter the car first and exit first offering a hand to lend assistance.  If using a chauffeur or professional driver, allow them to open and close the doors for you and your date.  The lady enters first and then the driver will open the door on the opposite side for the gentleman. No smoking, vaping or drinking in the car.  At the end of the evening, if the tip is not included, it is appropriate to tip the driver a cash amount between $50-$100 or 20% of the total.  

The Family. Picking up your date requires some quality time with their family.  Plan ahead, punctuality is a sign of respect.  Walk to the front door to greet your date properly.  Do not text from the car or, heaven forbid, honk the horn to signal your arrival.  If your date is introducing you for the first time, she will defer to her parents, “Mom and dad, I’d like to introduce to you Luke Jones, my date for the prom. Luke these are my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jones”.  In return, the gentleman responds with “It’s very nice to meet you” while flashing a toothy smile, making good eye contact, and shaking hands with two pumps.

The Dining. Impress your companion with this quick tutorial on formal dining skills. Once everyone has arrived at the table, ladies take a step to the right to be seated by the gentlemen. Napkins should then be folded in half lengthwise and placed in laps. Use a napkin to wipe your mouth and to capture a sneeze or cough at the table. If getting up during the meal, the napkin is placed on the seat of the chair.  At the end of the meal, the napkin is laid on the table to the left of the place setting.  Whether a sit down dinner or buffet, break and butter bread one bite size piece at a time, scoop soup away from you, and utilize both a fork and knife to efficiently enter food into your mouth. Remember, the acronym BMW going left to right which signifies the bread plate, the meal, and water glass.  In the buffet line, cater to your date first. It should go without saying, but be polite and use the magic words with all wait staff. Do not begin eating until everyone is served. Sit up straight with good posture and take small bites to keep the focus on conversation. 

The Behavior.  Rudeness is a huge turnoff.  Give your date the attention they deserve by keeping your phone out of view.  Use it for taking photos only, not to multi-task, text or use as an excuse to disengage. Gentlemen, break out the chivalrous behavior.  Walk your lady curbside, open her door and let her walk into the room first, pull out her chair, and shower her with sincere compliments.  Ask her to dance. Escort her where appropriate. Never ditch your date to socialize with friends. At the end of the evening, walk her respectfully to the front door.  Ladies, keep it light and breezy. This is not the time to take stock of your relationship and put demands on your date. Be polite, poised, positive and fun!  

The Dancing.  Most ladies love to dance and will drag their dates to the dancefloor. Dancing with a group of friends generally happens organically, it’s the slow dancing that prom-goers feel compelled to pair up.  Be respectful to your date and dance with them only.  If someone other than your partner asks to cut in, politely decline.  

The Photos. Once everyone is camera ready, the photo taking extravaganza commences.  To memorialize this rite of passage you’ll want a combination of professional looking photos and fun candid shots.  Make sure to monitor selfies and ask permission prior to tagging.  The emphasis should be on being present to the people in front of you rather than posting relentlessly.  After all, it’s about enjoying the moment to the fullest, not feeling a slave to your social media.

The Goodnight. If the stars were not aligned for you and your date and you’d rather forgo the final kiss goodnight, a simple, “Thank you for a lovely evening” accompanied by a friendly handshake will send a gracious message of appreciation and nothing more.  Read your date’s body language before making an advance.  Our non-verbal language speaks volumes about how we are truly feeling. 

The Thank You.  A gesture that is sure to impress is to write a note of thanks to the committee chair(s) for their hard work and dedication. As prom-goer, you are an ambassador of your school and your community, and your thoughtfulness will leave a positive and lasting impression. 

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.