Author: bethezeitgeist

Melania Trump Really Doesn’t Care

The big story about Melania Trump for Thursday, June 21 was supposed to be about her visiting immigrant children in Texas. Instead, it ended up being about her wardrobe. The ever-watched First Lady chose to wear a ZARA jacket with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” printed on the back. This was bizarre, to say the least.

While Melania is often depicted as somewhat ditzy and not fully aware of what’s going on, I find it hard to believe that the impact of wearing such a jacket was truly lost on her. The Trump era has been and remains to be a tense one, with many minorities and lower class individuals voicing their feelings that the president simply doesn’t care about them. Therefore, Melania’s wardrobe choice comes off as confusing and somewhat taunting. It seems as if she’s making light of citizen’s grievances, which honestly wouldn’t be surprising considering the behavior of her husband.

However, he claims that the message on the jacket was aimed at the media rather than individuals feeling isolated by the Trumps. “[the message] written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares,” tweeted the president.

This doesn’t coincide with the statement given by Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokeswoman, though. Grisham responded to questions about the jacket, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

While I agree that there certainly was no hidden message behind the jacket, being that it was clearly and boldly printed on the back, I can’t accept the idea that Melania’s team didn’t intend for this to be a story. The First Lady doesn’t simply wear a jacket saying she doesn’t care and expect it not to be a big deal.

This fashion statement, while odd, is exactly the kind of non-traditional and arguably disrespectful thing we’ve come to expect from the president, but not so much the first lady. Early on in Trump’s presidency, there was much speculation about whether or not Melania fully understood or agreed with her husband’s policies and leadership style. I think she answered that question today. She doesn’t care.

Be the Zeitgeist.

Why Are Black Women Cutting Their Hair?

My hair journey has been a long one. Like most every other little Black girl, I grew up with poofy braids and twists done by my mother. On the rare occasion that I did wear my hair straight or in his naturally curly state, I would always receive comments reminding me that I had “good hair,” a term that I now know is problematic but used to swell me with pride as a child. In any case, I can now see the ways in which that shaped my hair journey.

At about twelve I convinced my mother to let me get my first relaxer so that I could wear my hair straight, just as I had seen most of the Black women in my life wear theirs. However, my hair quickly became damaged, so I grudgingly went natural, but I maintained a blowout most of the time. Eventually, though, I grew to love my afro and it became a major part of my self-identity. I gave up blowouts because I thought this was a good thing until I realized that I found all of my beauty in my hair. This, and damage caused by my mismanagement when I first began caring for my own hair prompted me to cut it all off.

This was something I never thought I would do because my hair had always been so important to me, but even though I admittedly hated it at first, I grew to love my lack of hair. While this remains true, I eventually grew bored and decided to start wearing wigs. My wigs give me an opportunity to try anything which is something I love, but now I never know how to answer people ask what I’m “doing” with my hair. The truth is, I’m not sure what’s next.

So, I’ve decided that the best way to determine whether I should keep my hair short and continue to alternate between my practically bald head and wigs or grow my hair back is to explore why I and other Black women cut their hair in the first place.

Despite the numerous protests of my father, this trend has garnered much popularity. Young Black women across the country, but especially at Historically Black Colleges, have decided to trade in their bonnets for du-rags. This is an interesting phenomenon when you consider how important hair is to the perception of femininity.

Grace Jones, an obvious style icon, was one of the early pioneers of Black women wearing their hair in masculine cuts as it fit her persona, which was not at all traditionally feminine.

During an appearance on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, Jones said that cutting her hair was a “sacred thing.” She went on, “It’s something that one really never does, and so when you do it, it’s so–I feel like a nun.”

While not everyone is crafting an image like Jones, many other Black women also note cutting their hair as a significant experience or life change.

Rebecca Johnson, a friend of mine and a proud baldie, says “I cut my hair because at the time I was getting rid of things that I felt weighed me down. My hair took up too much space in my mind and in my life, so I got rid of it.”

However, the decision isn’t that serious for everyone. Olivia Miles, another friend of mine and proud balide, says “I cut my hair initially because when I was 16 I shaved off a portion of my hair on the right side of my head and when I got to Howard I wanted to cut it all off so it could grow back evenly, but I ended up falling in love with the bald look.”

My personal conclusion is that everyone cuts their hair for different reasons and it was a bit naive of me to think I could condense everyone’s experience into one. Where does that leave me as far as what’s next for my hair? I’m still not sure, but what I do know is that cutting my hair has taught me much more about myself than I ever expected and because of that my emotional connection to my hair has evolved immensely.

Be the zeitgeist.

 

Angela Davis, Prada and the Romanticization of the Revolutionary

Prada is selling $500 t-shirts and $1700 coats with Angela Davis’ likeness on them. That sentence is ridiculous for various reasons, so just let it sink in for a little bit.

According to the description of the t-shirt provided on Prada’s website, the design is meant to be a continuation of  Miuccia Prada’s “feminist” sentiment for Spring/Summer 2018. Clearly, Prada’s co-chief executive officer and lead creative designer has a different understanding of feminism than I do. Ironically though, the release of these pieces is exactly what I would expect from a “feminist.”

Feminism (more blatantly white feminism), has been riddled with insensitivity towards women of color and queer women since its inception. This is why Alice Walker invented the term “womanist” and why Angela Davis herself identifies as a “black feminist,” to offer a more inclusive option.

Like many other feminist acts, Prada’s t-shirt and jacket ignorantly miss the mark for the sake of being cute. Yes, wearing a shirt displaying an image of Angela Davis saying “Right on” would be a fashionable way to state your political stance, but it also just doesn’t make much sense.

The obvious issue is that Davis’ adult life has been mainly dedicated to Black liberation, so a white-owned company profiting from her aesthetic is odd, to say the least. It’s also worth mentioning that when you consider the price of the t-shirt and the fact that Black people are historically less affluent for various reasons, you can easily come to the conclusion that Black people likely won’t even be the ones purchasing this shirt.

The second and probably more overlookable issue is that Davis has long been noted for her communist sentiments. To sell a $1700 jacket celebrating an icon whose views call for the dismantlement of capitalism is the definition of irony.

However, I’m sure that those issues were never even considered during the production of Prada’s two latest buzzworthy pieces, and if they were they were apparently decided to be not that serious. What was seemingly considered, though, was the current trendiness of activism.

It seems as if being a revolutionary is the new cool thing. Everyone wants to march, everyone wants to protest and everyone has faced some form of oppression that they simply must fight. As someone who advocates for civic engagement, I should find this inspiring, but I can’t because I know that in far too many cases it’s not genuine.

Somewhere along the way being mistreated and having to work for your liberation became beautiful and people began to romanticize the idea of being a revolutionary. Angela Davis and her peers have become the icons of people who don’t know, and probably don’t care to know, how difficult and dangerous their work was.

Truly pushing for change requires a level of commitment that anyone who would wear Prada’s Angela Davis t-shirt or jacket probably just doesn’t have. There’s no problem in looking up to a woman as resilient and intelligent as Davis, but one should do so holistically. You can’t aspire towards the triumph if you’re not willing to go through the struggle.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

In Defense of J. Cole Fans

As you probably know by now, J. Cole dropped an album entitled “KOD” on April 20, 2018, and if you know me then you know that there are few things that I get more excited about than a J. Cole album. My love for Cole began when I was in the seventh grade and now I’m in college, so it goes without saying that my feelings for the Fayetteville rapper are pretty serious.

As I listened to “KOD” for the first time last Friday “lost in a cloud of marijuana, a young Carolina nigga,” just as Cole described himself, I found myself thinking about how his music had grown with me. The parallels in subject matter and mindset between my life and whatever music he released at the time have been consistent for such a long and significant time in my life. From 12 to 20, a period in life where you really mold who you’re going to be, I was able to evolve alongside my favorite rapper.

Feeling that kind of connection to your favorite artist is honestly an amazing feeling that I’ve heard few others say they’ve experienced. However, even when you don’t consider the personal connection, I’d argue that it’s still understandable why Cole fans are so serious about his work.

Even many who aren’t fans of his regularly admit that the man is talented. His way of manipulating the English language to write stories you can’t help but relate to, even if you’ve never been through something similar personally, is something worth applauding. The emphasis he places on the lyrics, as well as production, create an entire experience that other artists simply aren’t creating.

This is why in my younger years I genuinely believed that anyone who didn’t enjoy listening to Cole simply wasn’t intelligent enough to do so. Obviously, I and other fans have matured to understand that taste in music and intelligence don’t necessarily coincide, which is why many of us retired the borderline religious tweets, but let’s stop pretending that the logic behind proclamations with that sentiment is absolutely absurd.

At this point, even most Cole fans say such things jokingly anyway because we’re able to acknowledge that we sounded somewhat silly. However, if you don’t get the joke, maybe we were right and you really are simply too dense to get it. In any case, any musician who can grow with me as a person, consistently employ an artistic use of words and genuinely stand for the people the way that J. Cole does deserves respect. If we as fans didn’t get a little passionate in discussions from time to time we’d honestly be being disrespectful.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, The Biggest Story That Shouldn’t Be a Big Story

It was announced on Monday, March 26 that Virgil Abloh has been named Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Unsurprisingly, the announcement was met with the usual excitement that comes with such news. Virgil Abloh, a Black man from Chicago, has made history by becoming the first ever Black man to hold his new position, that’s a big deal.

But why? Why is it that his success is viewed as such an anomaly that it had to be the biggest news of the day, and likely the week? It’s not as if Abloh isn’t deserving. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you have to admit that for over a year now his has been one of the most relevant names in fashion.

Even the simple fact that he’s a Black man should be seen as an advantage rather than a disadvantage when it comes to a career in fashion. However, despite all logic, we’ve convinced ourselves that the fashion industry isn’t a place for Black men to thrive. When you really think about it though, we’ve seen enough examples of successful Black men in fashion to have dispelled that myth long ago.

Willi Smith, Patrick Kelly, Dapper Dan, Virgil Abloh and even Kanye West (among others, of course) have shown that the fashion industry is, in fact, a place for Black men. It’s also worth noting that all of the Project Runway Allstars Season 6 finalists (Anthony Williams, Fabio Costa, Ken Laurence and Stanley Hudson) are Black/Brown men. Despite all of this, there’s still a lack of Black men in fashion.

“I believe there aren’t many Black males in the fashion industry because of the stigma that comes with being in the industry. We don’t allow ourselves to venture outside of the norm so we never do anything but normal shit. There also wasn’t any representation in the fashion industry for the longest times, and that’s by design,” says Javier Cousteau of the Cousteau House of Design.

The argument that the lack of Black men in fashion, and the subsequent lack of faith in Black men that are is due societal norms is one with some merit. Black men often do find themselves in boxes, surrounded by expectations of what they should and should not do. While that entire concept is ridiculous, fashion being in the “should not” category is particularly egregious.

There have been countless proclamations that Black people are the most stylish people in the world, and you’re delusional if you’re still not ready to admit that Black/Brown women living in the ghetto are the source of many fashion trends, yet there still seems to be a belief that there’s no for Black men in the industry.

So at this point, you have to ask yourself why. You have to wonder why we’re still shocked that Black men can do great work in fashion. You have to question why Virgil Abloh’s new position at Louis Vuitton is more noteworthy than any other fashion story of the day. Not because he doesn’t deserve the honor, but because he does.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

The Signifgance of “Black Panther” Fashions, Both on and off Screen

As expected because it was so highly anticipated, Marvel’s “Black Panther” has created a lot of conversation since its release on February 16. One of the biggest conversations has surrounded the movie’s fashion. Costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, drew inspiration from various African cultures while maintaining the futuristic integrity of Wakanda to create the mainly green, red and black costumes.

However, the on-screen fashions were not the only eye-catching looks I noticed when I saw the movie on opening night. The audience seemed to have come to a consensus that the proper attire was either all black or traditional African fabrics. Of course, I wore my usual all black, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “Black Panther” in mind that morning while getting dressed.

As someone who cares so deeply about adornment, it was heartwarming to see such adamantly pro-black looks both in the theatre with me as well as all over the country via Twitter. It was clear that the movie had instilled a sense of pride. Such pride is interesting considering the fact that much of the African-American population lacks knowledge of our origins. This was evident in the chosen movie-going attire. Pieces from various African cultures were mixed, most likely ignorantly but not maliciously.

This, however, is not really a negative in my opinion. It’s no secret that Black people were stripped of their culture and that any attempts to preserve practices for their prosperity were punishable during enslavement. Because of this, Black people not only in America, but across the diaspora have resorted to combining various West African cultures.

This is what I would consider self-determination. As a Howard student, I’ve had countless class discussions and written numerous papers about how enslaved people drew what they could from home while creating their own traditions in order to maintain their identities. Self-determination served as a defense mechanism against oppression.

This is exactly what we’ve seen in the theatres over the past week. Being Black in America can be exhausting, but “Black Panther” has inspired pride in African-American people. The moment may or may not be fleeting, but it’s still beautiful. And yes, as an actual Marvel fan, I know that “Black Panther” is not a “race movie,” but that does not change the fact that it was released in a volatile time and has sparked a cultural movement. Such an impact, intentional or not, is noteworthy.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

A Conversation with Wild ‘n Out’s Costume Designer, Satthra San

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to spend time backstage at Wild ‘n Out in Brooklyn, New York to see how things work behind the scenes. During my time on set, I sat in on filmings of the show and hung out with cast members, which was somewhat surreal being that I’ve been watching Wild ‘n Out since I was too young to be watching it.

However, what was most exciting is that I got a chance to interview the show’s costume designer, Satthra San. San is the woman behind the eclectic, yet cohesive red and black (and recently gold and platinum) fashions that have become such a huge part of the show. Here’s a closer look at just what that job entails:

Chantè: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, I just have a few questions. Firstly, how did you get to this position in your career?

Satthra: No problem! Do you want the long story or the short story?

C: Either one is fine.

S: Basically, I moved to New York six and a half years ago and started doing sales in fashion. I have a Bachelor’s in design, and I’ve been sewing since I was like thirteen so I actually had a lot of opportunities back home, but I really wanted to be in New York, so I literally left everything. I left a comfortable life and started from scratch here. I didn’t know anyone, I met my roommate online and I found my apartment the weekend I graduated. When I got here I started doing sales in a showroom as an intern and I was there for a year. I met a bunch of stylists. One, in particular, I kept in contact with and a year later I hit her up and she had to fire her assistant that same weekend and she lived down the street from me. I was everything that she needed at that time and she was everything that I needed at that time, so it just kind of fell into place. She did a lot of styling for Atlantic artists such as Wale, B.O.B. and Joe Budden, so that’s how I got my start in the styling world. Her best friend was actually working Wild ‘N Out at the time, this was season six. At the same time, my former boss was moving to London, so I worked my ass off on season 6 and my her best friend adopted me for the next four seasons. Then I graduated to be lead for the past two seasons, seasons ten and eleven. And now, here I am.

C: And now here we are! That’s great. So now that you’ve been in this position for a couple of seasons, what’s your favorite part of the job?

S: Well since I have a design background, all of these jerseys are kind of sort of my visions. Our people, New Jersey Sets, who are based out in California, I give them my inspiration and the things I’m looking for for the season and they come back to me with designs and I’ll say “add a hood” or “add this color panel.” We’ve actually been a couple seasons going trying to achieve these sequin jerseys, so getting to make stuff like that happen is probably my favorite part.

C: That actually flows right into my next question, which is how do the fashions on the show come about? I know the cast all have their different styles, so do they come to you and say “this is what I want” or do you just tell them that’s what they’re going to wear?

S: It’s definitely a collaboration. There are some guys that sort of know exactly what they want and they’ve been on the show for so many years that they just trust us at this point. They just come and kind of look through the jersey racks and anything on these racks they kind of customize however they want. But then there are other cast members, the new ones, that are super excited and just want to put everything together.

C: So how is the work environment? Is it chaotic? It is chill?

S: You know what’s crazy? It all starts at the top. For me, I wanted to build an organized foundation. I wanted it to be so that everyone coming in to work for me knows the lay of the land and is multi-talented. You can’t just be able to do one thing here. You’ve got to do multiple things. For me, I’m on the [sewing] machine, I handle the vinyl cutter, I’ll heat press the names, I’ll make designs on the computer along with putting the clothes onto people.

C: So that again kind of goes into my next question: How much of your personal style goes into the clothes that we see on the show?

S: All of it. But actually, a lot of the things I wouldn’t pick out personally, but I would pick out for a certain person. Like Karlous likes crazy pants so we’ve gotten a lot of the G-Star and Pharell collaboration jeans for him. So like, for the OG cast members I have pieces I specifically hand pick for them, and there are other fillers that I kind of just get just in case someone might want to try it, but most importantly it all just needs to look good on stage and on camera.

C: Okay, final question: Do you also design Nick’s turbans?

S: Unfortunately I do not. Nick has his own team that I’d be happy to connect you with if need be.

C: Thank you! And thank you again for your time.

S: No problem!

 

Be the zeitgeist.