Monday, January 24, 2011

Kate Middleton: A Post Modern Fairy Tale Princess?

The royal wedding is less than one hundred days away and I'm not ashamed to say, I'm getting a little excited. As someone who remembers getting up before dawn to watch the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer, I'll admit my view of 'Happily Ever After' has been altered somewhat by time. Maybe it's this interminable winter we're all suffering through and my recent move to the country that's got me more than a little stir crazy, but even though I obviously should know better, I'm more than happy to embrace the modern fairy-tale that the marriage of Kate (excuse me, Catherine) Middleton and Prince William seems to embody.
Of course, so much has changed since the wedding of Diana and Charles. I wrote my first book, Diana The Secrets of Her Style, as a tribute to the late princess because I was so taken with her transformation from Shy Di to A Woman in Full. At the time I wrote, "Her journey from a rather ordinary looking kindergarten teacher to Her Royal Highness to a stunning, independent single woman was rife with images we could relate to. To women of all ages who grew up believing in fair-tale endings, Diana in her unabashedly romantic wedding dress was the embodiment of a modern day Cinderella."

When I look at Mario Testino's stunning engagement portrait of Kate and William, I am struck by how Kate looks both fresh and unaffected and coolly sophisticated as well. Take a closer look and you'll see that she looks much more at ease in this photograph than William does. And, of course, she looks radiantly happy.

In next month's Vogue, Mario Testino talks about the sitting for the portrait describing the couple as sharing the same 'energy' and, he writes, "the clear sense you get with them that they are going to work as a team." His description of Kate is reminiscent of the other famous princess Testino so brilliantly photographed. " Of Kate, he writes, "She brings life, a delightful sense of humor, and a joy into the room when she walks in."

Sound familiar?

Diana was, without question, the most famous woman in the world at the time of her death. It is unfathomable to imagine just how she would -- or wouldn't -- cope with the onslaught of the 24/7 media which hadn't existed when she was alive. Even without the Internet and the age of the instanteous image Diana was, as her brother so poignantly pointed out in his eulogy of her, "the most hunted person of the modern age." I have to wonder if mere mortals like the Kardashian sisters and movie star demi-goddesses like Angelina Jolie would have dethroned Diana over time. I'm sorry to say I think they would have. It's hard to imagine Diana's brand of stardom coexisting in a world of C-list reality stars.

Perhaps that is why I find myself fascinated with Kate. At a time where aspiring celebrities barrage us with tweets about the minutiae of their lives and offer cameras access to every tedious occurence until we are so exhausted by the onslaught, we finally relent because we have no choice but to pay attention, Kate is the rare celebrity that is not courting us. Granted, she doesn't have to, but what she will choose to do with her worldwide celebrity will be very interesting indeed.

While self-appointed pop cultural princesses of every stripe (Bethenny, Snooki, Kim) continue their quest to wring out every ounce of their (hopefully) fleeting flame in order to 'build their personal brand' (a phrase I've come to abhor), Kate need do nothing more than step out with William and she dazzles.

It is fascinating to me that since the engagement the images of her seem few and far between. There are no tawdry stories of her past that have come to light. No disgruntled former loves selling a sex tape. Imagine that.

While it's been said that Kate habors no aspirations to be the next Diana, the late princess' influence is clearly apparent in every image, every story of Kate. One cannot help but be drawn to the sapphire stunner on Kate's left hand in this portrait without conjuring up the image of Diana all those many years ago proudly wearing it for her engagement pictures. At the couple's photocall when they announced their engagement, it was if Diana was in the room with them. Prince William acknowledged as much when he told a reporter his decision to give Kate the ring (which had actually belonged to Prince Harry who chose it as a treasured momento before burying his mother) was made because, he said, he wanted to include Diana in his engagement to Kate "in a meaningful way."

There are have been enough side by side comparisions of Kate and Diana in similiar outfits (the requisite tailored coats and fanciful hats) to see that much has been made of Kate's emergence as a style icon. That may be so, but I believe it's Kate's (and William's) canny decisions about how to live their lives as a royal couple where "The Diana Effect" is plainly evident.

Kate was given video tapes of Diana to watch so as to see how so deal with hordes of photographers and, it's been reported, is getting plenty of coaching on how to handle the media. The royals have clearly learned from their mistakes. Perhaps even more importantly, one can only imagine the heartbreaking conversations William has had with Kate over how difficult things became for his mother. You can almost see in his face how resolute he is in protecting his future bride from all that.

Kate's handlers have been brilliant at building an image that could not be described any better than 'The People's Princess 2.0.' Carefully doled out stories about how William and Kate won't have servants in their home after the wedding and how she shops at the British version of TJ Maxx are clearly intended to convey the idea that this is not a young woman propelled by an air of entitlement but rather one that wants to live whatever version of 'a normal life' life as a modern day royal affords her.

This is certainly true when it comes to stories about wedding preparations. It's already been reported that Kate will not be arriving in a glass carriage like Diana did (she is clearly not a fan of Cinderella) and now comes word that Kate's parents will help foot the bill for the reception. They will also be paying for Kate's wedding dress. Reports have been circulating that the couple will request wedding guests make donations to charities in lieu of gifts. A page of out Diana's playbook, for sure.

In some ways, Diana's life lived as a princess trapped in a gilded castle with no one to advise or to love her seems much more difficult that the one Kate is about to begin. And yet, Kate has the enormous burden of being a post modern princess that embodies "reality glamour" (as Testino put it) but who also must willingly become the fairy tale princess that will restore the luster to the British royals. On top of all that, she may not have asked for it, but the world is watching to see if this young woman who really is marrying her prince can give other women everywhere someone to follow that doesn't require holding your nose or checking your brains at the door.

(Photo credit: Mario Testino)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Good, the Bad & the Nasty at 2011 Golden Globes

by Diane Clehane for

Best dressed: Eva Longoria in Zac Posen

Ask anyone in Hollywood and they will tell you that The Golden Globes is usually one of the most enjoyable nights of the year. It’s always a great party with lots of loose, unscripted moments and plenty of laughs. Not anymore. A shockingly mean-spirited Ricky Gervais and too many rambling presenters (Christian Bale, we mean you) managed to suck all the air out of the room and turn the evening into a big downer within the show’s first ten minutes. It only went down hill from there.

With the exception of Natalie Portman’s sweet homage to her family (Go Grandma Bernice!) and Colin Firth’s self-deprecating and utterly charming riff on middle age, the night’s winners were kind of, well, boring. I appreciate what Glee has done for high school kids who feel like misfits (and Chris Colfer’s remarks were inspiring), but I’m tired of seeing the show’s entire squadron of performers take over the red carpet and the stage. Jane Lynch, who by now has won everything she can for her role, just gives the same speech every time. At one point last night, I thought, who here isn’t on that show?

But the real downer of the night came courtesy of Ricky Gervais. After his take-no-prisoners opening monologue, the stars he introduced came out looking a bit shell-shocked or ticked off effectively killing the usually light hearted mood that has always made this show so much fun. By the second half of the night, his presence was limited but by then, the buzz kill had taken full effect.

When it comes to fashion, last night’s Golden Globes reminded me of ‘Opposite Day’ at my daughter’s preschool where the kids were allowed to wear mismatched clothes or something from their mother’s closet. (Well, it seemed Leighton Meester raided her grandmother’s trunk for her matronly dress). While no one showed up with their dress inside out, Helena Bonham Carter’s mismatched shoes were strangely reminiscent of a toddler’s attempt at dress-up.

The other ‘Opposite Effect’ that took hold was that the usual red carpet stunners were among the night’s worst offenders and women we barely noticed before dazzled. Halle Berry, Julianne Moore and Catherine Zeta Jones all disappointed. Women like Piper Perabo and Emma Stone (who?) looked gorgeous.

Upon first impression, it looked as if the red carpet was awash in pretty dresses but soon enough it was swamped in a sea of ruffles and a ridiculous number of bottle green dresses. The color of money? We get it.

There were no less than five green dresses on the red carpet. None really wowed. Angelina Jolie in a sparkling Versace wore it best. Let’s face it though, it could have just have easily been worn by Tina Fey (whose L’Wren Scott velvet number must have been pretty uncomfortable in the eighty degree heat). I usually love Catherine Zeta Jones but she looked like she had just stepped off the stage of Radio City’s Christmas Show. All she needed was ornaments as earrings. Sorry, but it’s true.

I found it alarming that Nicole Kidman had one of the most womanly bodies on the red carpet. It was a case of the incredibly shrinking actress. With the exception of Sofia Vergara, practically every woman there looked positively skeletal. Apparently, size 4 is a plus size in lala land.

Best dressed of the night was Eva Longoria who looked simply stunning in Zac Posen. How does someone so petite get her va va voom on so well? Anne Hathaway shimmered in Armani looking every inch the movie star she has become. Piper Perabo was amazingly chic in her black Oscar de la Renta, red lipstick and high ponytail. Who knew? In a sea of over the top ruffled confections, I loved the chic minimalism of Emma Stone’s pretty peach Calvin Klein.

And now the Worst dressed. Where to start? The usual fashion stalwarts fizzled or just plain disappointed. Halle Berry forgot her dress and came in her underwear. Julianne Moore fashioned a pair of curtains from the set of A Single Man and made it into a costume better suited to the heroine of a Judith Krantz mini-series. Red menace Christina Hendricks is obviously starved for attention. And it is so sad that a beauty like her Mad Men costar January Jones never, ever gets it right. Finally, a word about tattoos to all those misguided young actresses who have them: just because Angelina gets away with it doesn’t mean you can. We don’t like hers either, but we’re too afraid of her to tell her.

Not the best night for fashion and not the worst. The show grade: D. The fashion grade: B-.

Here’s how the whole shebang unfolded:

5:02PM Ricky Gervais launches into his squirm-inducing opening monologue. In the space of four minutes he manages to insult Johnny Depp (really?), Angelina Jolie, Charlie Sheen and the cast of Sex & The City. His truly tasteless jokes about Hugh Hefner’s fiancée were disgusting. You could hear a pin drop when he went for his Tom Cruise/John Travolta gay joke.

5:06PM Scarlett Johansson presents the first award of the night looking completely miserable. She must be psychic and has seen the future of the next three hours.

5:09PM Best Supporting Actor in a Drama (Film) Christian Bale has to be played off the stage and winds up being bleeped for his parting remark where he called Robert DeNiro ‘The sh—.’ Its going to be a looong night. Thanks to his ramblings the show is already running late. Producers try to play catch up by basically playing off every television winner for the rest of the night.

5:10PM In an upset, Katey Sagal wins Best Actress in a Drama (television) beating favorites Elizabeth Moss and Juliana Marguiles. Her big moment is cut off when she gets shooed off the stage by that annoying music.

5:16PM In effort to scale back on designer clothes, the usually stunning Julianne Moore is wearing something created from the drapes in her aunt’s house. Somewhere, Tom Ford is weeping.

5:20PM A whole series of people no one cares about go on and on when they take the stage. Backstage, producers are in search of a giant hook.

5:21PM Ricky Gervais is back. He introduces Bruce Willis as Ashton Kutcher’s dad. I was hoping Bruce would go all Die Hard on Ricky but instead he just looks more than a little miffed.

5:24PM Chris Colfer wins Best Supporting Actor Comedy for Glee and gives bullied kids everywhere hope with is heartfelt and mercifully brief speech. (“Screw that, kids!”) Nicely done.

5:30PM Michelle Pfeiffer presents. I bet she has a painting in her attic that is aging rapidly.

5:31PM Divorce becomes her. Eva Longoria is my pick for Best Dressed of the night.

5:34PM Fingers crossed we get to see Jon Hamm on stage for Best Actor.

5:35PM Nope, I have to shield my eyes when it’s Steve Buscemi instead. He also gets cut short by “sad music.”

5:44PM Some idiot actor from The Social Network can’t read the teleprompter and has to start over multiple times. Good going, sport.

5:55PM True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld and Justin Bieber walk on to present an award. Just asking but why are the young male tween heart throbs today such girly men? Justin Bieber looks like my niece in drag.

6:00PM After being cruelly introduced by Ricky Gervais with tired references to his stints at “Betty Ford and ‘The LA County Jail,’ Robert Downey calls Gervais out for his “mean spirited” shtick.

6:03PM Ricky Gervais isn’t getting into any after parties.

6:04PM Annette Bening takes the stage with scary hair. She and the writer of the film she starred in, The Kids Are All Right, are dressed eerily alike down to their unfortunate eyeglasses.

6:09PM Sylvester Stallone introduces “The Boxer.” I love “Rocky” in all its iterations but he looks like he had a full body transplant. You can’t make this stuff up.

6:11PM Geoffrey Rush takes the stage. Great actor. Terrible dresser.

6:12PM Al Pacino wins Best Actor in a mini-series. I fear another rambling speech is about to be thrust upon us. Yup.

6:17PM Claire Danes, who apparently hasn’t eaten anything for about a month, wins for Best Support Actress in a mini series.

6:23PM Nice to see some child stars do grow up. Zac Efron looks like Harrison Ford compared to the rest of his peer group.

6:24PM Ricky Gervais makes his only borderline funny remark of the night when he calls out Steve Carrell for being ungrateful for bailing on The Office and “killing the cash cow.”

6:25PM Shot of Michelle Williams in an unfortunate, frumpy dress that looks like it’s from Talbot’s Mommy & Me collection.

6:29PM Apparently two guys we never heard of are going to star in films this summer as Captain America and Thor.

6:30PM Jane Lynch wins Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for Glee. Ed O’Neill readies his remark for the press as to why Sofia Vergara should have won.

6:46PM OMG Jane Fonda! I don’t care if you’ve had your entire body lifted, you still look amazing. Love, love, love the dress.

7:05PM Angelina Jolie is not amused. Neither are we.

7:06PM Robert DeNiro, in accepting his Cecil B. DeMille Awards, attempts to audition for Gervais’ hosting gig for next year’s show. His performance is not unlike your Uncle Morty’s ill-fated attempt at stand-up at your cousin’s wedding last year. Yeesh.

7:15PM David Fincher wins Best Director for The Social Network. In accepting his award makes some joke involving Jon Benet. Huh?

7:17PM Versace pitchwoman January Jones comes out in a hideous red bondage dress. Betty Draper would not approve.

7:18PM Glee wins Best Comedy. Half the room takes to the stage.

7:25PM Halle Berry must have been in a hurry to get here tonight because she’s in her underwear. I don’t care if it’s Armani. We know you’re a gorgeous woman but you’re an Oscar winner for goodness sakes. You don’t have to dress like that anymore!

7:34PM Sure thing Natalie Portman wins Best Actress in a Drama. Too bad she is wearing that silly Viktor & Rolf dress. Dior must be disappointed and if I were Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte I’d be more than a little ticked off. She does get points for the night’s sweetest speech with her shout out to Grandma Bernice and her loving remarks about her parents who are beaming with pride in the audience. Loved the kudos for Mila ‘Sweet Lips’ Kunis. I’d get going on my Oscar speech if I were you.

7:38PM Presenter Tom Hanks recalls a time when Ricky Gervais was a “chubby and kind comedian.” You’re in trouble when the Mayor of Hollywood calls you out …

7:39PM Another shot of an unsmiling Angelina Jolie. We feel your pain.

7:40PM The Kids Are All Right wins Best Picture Comedy. The best of a weak bunch.

7:46PM Uh-oh. Ricky is introducing Sandra Bullock.

7:47PM She manages to escape his wrath only to land on everyone’s worst dressed list. What a difference a year makes. Last year she was flawless in Alexander McQueen. This year she appears to be channeling Ally Sheedy’s character from The Breakfast Club.

7:48PM Finally, a moment of civility. Colin Firth wins Best Actor in a Drama for his performance in The King’s Speech. In his acceptance speech he says, “Getting to the mid-point of your life with your dignity intact is precarious …” He is funny, gracious and charming. Refreshing.

7:57PM Michael Douglas, who was robbed of the chance to bring everyone to tears earlier in the night when he lost to Christian Bale, gets a standing ovation before introducing the Best Picture Drama. We tear up when he quips, “There’s a gotta be an easier way.” The Social Network is the winner. Facebook has officially taken over the world.

7:59PM Ricky Gervais thanks the crowd for “being good sports” and stupidly thanks God “for making me an atheist.” Buh-bye.

8:02PM Show producers put in a call to Ellen DeGeneres asking her to host next year.

(Photo credit: