Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Pop Culture

How to be beautiful, according to Lea Michele

by Julia Tulloh , August 13, 20141 Comment

1398878478_lea-michele-brunette-ambition-zoom

Lea Michele’s new book, Brunette Ambition, is what you might expect from a fairly young television and musical theatre star. Part memoir, part style guide, Michele intersperses her journey from performing on Broadway as a child to her successful role as Rachel Berry on Glee with tips on how to be a hard-working, good-looking, well-dressed, financially secure, Gen Y celebrity. Michele’s dreamy life is presented in a girl-next-door tone, allowing readers to imagine themselves in her shoes. The result is a fun read with plenty of useful lifestyle tips, and Michele does discuss the importance of hard work and being a team player in order to succeed at your job. However, the book’s primary focus, a little disconcertingly, is on appearance.

Michele doesn’t really offer anything new in terms of beauty tips: she implores readers to drink more water, get enough sleep, eat plenty of fresh vegetables, remove make-up before bed… all the information anyone who ever read Dolly or Girlfriend as a teenager (or who has a good dose of common sense) already knows. What makes Brunette Ambition appealing, at least for Glee fans or those with an interest in the machinations of celebrity culture, is that Michele presents this advice through a combination of lists and personal anecdotes, replete with dozens of photos of herself illustrating different hairstyles, exercises, outfits and make-up combinations. She transforms basic health and style information into part of her own ‘real’ life, implying that readers are getting to know her in a meaningful way. Mundane tasks like the regular washing of sheets and taking the stairs instead of the lift become exotic and special (these are things that famous people do!) but not so special that they feel unachievable for readers.

I followed her instructions: I used coconut oil as restorative masque for my hair, started applying an astringent toner to my T-zone and now blow dry my hair with a cylindrical brush. I felt all of these techniques, basic as they were, improved how I looked. Michele also includes a bunch of healthy recipes, which are delicious: Italian Comfort Soup, Mediterranean Nachos, and Radicchio, Parmesan and Marinara Pizza. Whether or not Michele actually eats these foods, I can’t say. There was also a page on how to make ‘meal supplements’ (i.e. juices) and at one point she recommended substituting the tortilla of a veggie wrap with a lettuce leaf. Nevertheless, the book caused me to change my beauty routine and, consequently, feel better about my appearance.

That said, I felt mildly troubled that I was inspired by a book that so overtly emphasised physical appearance. Six out of ten chapters focus on style and looks, with the implication that a flawless appearance is integral to success. Michele’s job requires her to be beautiful all the time, but not all of us are television stars. She isn’t particularly critical of the pressure on women to look and dress a certain way, nor of how she might be contributing to such pressures.

In place of so much fashion advice, I would have liked to read more autobiographical content. The chapters that detail more personal aspects of Michele’s life are interesting – she describes her parents’ entrepreneurial skills; her Jewish background; her experiences as a child star; and the importance of particular friendships, including those with the Glee crew. She refrains from speaking about her relationship with Cory Monteith, who died last year from a drug overdose. Whether Michele’s shiny presentation is a façade or not, I couldn’t help but think of this tragedy, and admire her for retaining such a strong work ethic in its aftermath.

Paradoxically, I was both troubled and inspired by Michele’s focus on beauty, but perhaps that says more about me than it does her. My response to Brunette Ambition is a good example of the way fans participate just as much as celebrities in the circulation of ideas about what it takes to be successful, and also of how fun and pleasurable this involvement can be, even when the ideology behind it (i.e. that good looks are a priority) may be flawed.

Julia Tulloh is a writer in Melbourne. She’s working on a PhD on Cormac McCarthy’s fiction. She tweets at @jtul and blogs at juliatulloh.com.

ACO logo




9781408857175

Lou Heinrich

To see each other’s innards: Intimacy in Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress

In Stone Mattress, Atwood’s stories make a remarkable study of intimacy, of seeing each other’s innards, in different partnerships. Through the domestic details she describes, her masterful characterisation and her sharp tone, Atwood crafts the mundane into the profound. Read more »

9781863957120

James Tierney

Dissonance and Tradition: Andrew Ford’s Earth Dances

Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive is a vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance. Read more »

monroe

James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

fx-2015-winter-tcajpeg-069cb_c0-146-3500-2186_s561x327

Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

B5QJwMhIYAAfjxG

Rebecca Shaw

A Tale of Two Penises: Double Dick Dude and the invisibility of male bisexuality

For the past year I have found myself fascinated by penises. If I’d been to the races, I would have created a monstrous dick fascinator to wear as a beautiful physical representation of my mental state. But let me be clear, I have not been captivated with all or even many penises. My fascination has solely been aimed at the two penises owned by the man known only as ‘Diphallic Dude’, or more casually ‘DoubleDickDude’. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

cdn.indiewire

Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

39154_4f8f076801b89b442752af76ac226fc0

Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

wowx5-artwork-012-full

Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

The-Rabbits-2015-1280x470

Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

MovingMusicAndreCastellucci1

Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »