More Pants, More Problems: Elaine Stritch

PicMonkey Collage2Fearless, funny, and fashionable.

No, I’m not talking about myself! J I can only hope that those are a few of the words that come to mind when someone describes me 67 years from now. Yup, that’s the head start actress Elaine Stritch had on me until she passed away on July 17th at the age of 89 years old.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know who Elaine Stritch was until this year. I needed a film credit for a class I was taking, and a friend and I figured that her self-titled documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me was the lesser of the evils in our campus movie theater. I grew more skeptical as we entered the theater among hoards of elderly women accompanied by nursing professionals. Once the lights went out and the film started rolling, though, I was mesmerized.

This tiny, pale, hunchback of a woman fills the screen. Her face is almost entirely covered by her insanely large glasses. Her frail body is wrapped in a ginormous fur coat. As the camera pans down, it becomes clear that she isn’t wearing any pants.

I found myself giggling constantly. Stritch is unbelievably sharp-witted, filling the dialogue with zinging one-liners. She isn’t afraid to insult anyone – male, female, old, young, big, small – if they deserve it. She is brutally honest. Her body is surprisingly limber as she dances around in her signature black tights and white men’s button-down. (It becomes clear early on that pants just aren’t Elaine’s thing.) Her outlandish fashion sense makes a statement in every scene.

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But it’s not all laughter.

Stritch isn’t above human struggles. Sure, she can make a hilarious joke about the demons she is battling, but the demons don’t go away. She talks about her life-long battle with alcoholism, saying that “drinking” is her biggest fear but then sipping a martini in the next scene. Drinking is a “warm, inviting escape” from her plethora of health issues, presumably all brought on by her Type 1 diabetes. As a Type 1 diabetic myself, I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed when she practices for her comedy show and suddenly can’t get her lines out. Her toe-tapping stops and she fumbles for the words. Her piano man helps her test her blood sugar. In an instant she goes from animated to so frustrated that she is near tears. The audience suddenly sees a seemingly invincible woman crumble into pieces in front of their eyes.

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In a later scene, Stritch can’t get out of bed. Her team tries to convince her to get up, but as a fellow diabetic I know it’s not that simple. She ends up in the hospital and has to cancel her performance. She talks to the camera about the constant back-and-forth thought process in her head. She knows that the end is coming and that her performances will come to a stop. But she doesn’t quite know how to stop.

Despite her struggles, or more likely because of them, Stritch lived the entirety of her life glamorously but honestly.

Personally, I don’t need to live to 89. In fact, that’s a stretch for any person, let alone a diabetic.

But as long as I live my life with half as much passion, humor, style, and strength as Stritch, I’ll be doing pretty damn well.

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Book Review: If I Stay

Apparently Gayle Forman’s novel If I Stay was published back in 2009. However, it caught my eye in recent months as it climbed atop all the bestseller lists. The resurgence in popularity is thanks to the novel becoming a movie, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and premiering August 22nd.

I have mixed reviews about the novel. I know I should pick a stance and tell you to either read or to stay away – pun intended. Then again, I’ve never been known for my decisiveness. I am a Libra, after all.

For starters, here’s a brief synopsis: After an accident, seventeen-year-old protagonist Mia must ‘decide’ whether to live or to pass on.

Told you the synopsis would be brief. Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler alert – the ever-so-trusty back of the book sa41rEe4pc3yL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ys essentially the same thing in more words.

The concept of the novel is certainly refreshing. The structure is enjoyable as well, as the narration switches between Mia before the accident and Mia in the hospital as a ghost-like figure. However, I find that If I Stay lacks depth. I read the book on my Kindle, so I couldn’t physically see the length of the book. As I sat by the pool on day two of reading it, I had to make sure my device wasn’t malfunctioning when I abruptly reached the end. It felt like I had just started to reach the meat of the story and then it stopped!

I have since discovered that there is a sequel… perhaps the two should have been combined. The movie version is definitely going to have to take a lot of creative liberty to make it long enough for a feature-film and keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

I don’t mean to knock the novel entirely. In fact, I actually did enjoy reading it. It was a quick read (not just because of its barely-there length) and easy to follow. It definitely kept my interest while I read it, but once I reached the end I was disappointed to find that the action I had been anticipating didn’t really exist.

I would recommend If I Stay to someone who wants a short and swift book, like for a train ride or a day at the beach. It’s different than your typical “teen” type book and still feels appropriate for a twenty-something like myself. It may also be a tearjerker for some people, although I think my own tear ducts were on strike after The Fault in Our Stars.

All in all, the If I Stay movie may end up being the first film-version I prefer over a book, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it by any means. Take from that what you will.

Will you stay or will you go?

Wise Words (…and cute pictures)

Rough Monday?

I can’t necessarily relate at the present moment since I’m still funemployed, but we’ve all had those days. I figured some of you could use a few words of wisdom (and some adorable little creatures who can empathize).

So grab a cocktail, kick up your feet, and relax. Monday is over. Here’s to a fabulous week!

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From Gossip Girl to Broadway Brain: 5 Reasons I’m Still Obsessed with Leighton Meester

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 Actress Leighton Meester published a sort-of critique of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in the Huffington post yesterday. I say ‘sort-of’ because Meester isn’t so much critiquing the story, but rather the reaction of the modern-day audience. During her four-month run as the only female – a nameless character, at that – in the Broadway version, Meester has developed a strong emotional connection to her character. She is strictly referred to as a tramp, tart, or bitch, despite the fact that she is quite the contrary. Meester describes the ‘eerie,’ even ‘terrifying’ feeling that she gets when she realizes that the mostly young audience is “unfazed, if not amused” by the violent treatment of the female character.

A little heavier than you were expecting from a former teen queen, huh?

Along with countless other teens, I fell in love with Leighton quickly when she was cast as Blair Waldorf on the CW’s Gossip Girl in 2007. (I’m so tempted to go off on a tangent about Waldorf/GG, but I’ll stop myself.) Since the series ended in 2012, Meester has gone relatively under the radar, but I haven’t stopped obsessing. Her eloquent, eye-opening piece yesterday confirmed what I’ve known for years: Meester is a diamond in the rough that we call Hollywood. So in light of her recent girl power moment, here are the top five reasons I’ll never stop gushing over Leighton.

1)    She’s brave. Although Meester says she is nothing like the bold, bossy character she played on Gossip Girl, she certainly seems to have the self-assuredness and gumption that Waldorf had. Exhibit A: writing a public essay critiquing a classic American novel from a feminist perspective.

2)    She’s versatile. From playing an absurdly over privileged Upper East Side teen to a down home country singer trying to make it on tour, Meester has proven that she has range. Throw her recent Broadway gig into the mix and she’s reached the trifecta. We can even pretend for a second that The Roommate didn’t suck and add a thriller to her list. Meester’s versatility even translates to aesthetics: the star is a natural blonde but went brunette to play Waldorf!

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3)    She’s under the radar. As social-media-obsessed as I am, I give Meester props for her sporadic approach to her Twitter and Instagram accounts. Then there’s her love life. If I made up half of one the cutest couples in Hollywood, I would go shouting it from the rooftops. But Meester and her now-hubby Adam Brody got married secretly back in February. That’s when you know it’s real!

4)    She’s down to earth. When Leighton was born, her mother was actually in the midst of serving a felony prison sentence for her part in a drug trafficking ring. Meester was raised by her grandparents in Florida until her mother was released. Her tough childhood probably played a big part in Meester’s humble attitude. She is also very well educated in addition to her acting resume – she allegedly speaks fluent French and has a love for creative writing.

5)    She can sing! When I took a look at Meester’s discography, I was surprised to see how many songs she had before any of them went mainstream. I do remember her first official single, though: “Somebody to Love” featuring Robin Thicke. After a few more not-quite-hits, Meester came back on the scene with her voimages-3cals in Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.” The soundtrack for Country Strong in 2010 was Meester’s best work, in my opinion. Want a more recent example? Check out this amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” by Leighton and Dana Williams. She is so hippie-chic and lovable in the video that I dare you not to fall for her.

xoxo, Haley 

(come on, I had to.)

E.L.F. Review

Although I’ve always had a somewhat unhealthy obsession with clothes, I’ve never been too into makeup. Bronzer and concealer are my staples, but other than that I’ve always been a no muss, no fuss kinda gal when it comes to my face. Besides laziness, the main reason is that I hate spending money on cosmetics. When I finally did start wearing things like mascara and eyebrow pencil, I scoured the shelves at CVS to find the cheapest options. As a recent – and very broke college grad, I need to stay away from expensive cosmetics now more than ever.

That’s where E.L.F. comes in.

I like to think that they call it E.L.F. because it feels like Christmas morning when you get your package in the mail, but really it just stands for Eyes, Lips, Face. The concept is pretty self explanatory. Why do I love it so much? Because most of the standard products are between $1 and $6. You heard me right! I can pretty much cover all my bases for less than the cost of one big name product.

I recently ordered my second round of E.L.F. products. I always look for coupon codes before I buy (hey, even $1 products add up!) or try to find a free shipping offer. That means I can get a bundle of makeup for less than it costs to drive to the mall and get “real” products. In addition to www.eyeslipsface.com, you can find certain E.L.F. products at Target and Walmart. I just prefer the huge online selection of products and colors.

I’ll start with my favorite E.L.F. product thus far: the Eyebrow Lifter and Filler. This time around I ordered two since I loved it so much the first time. The thick pencil has two ends. One end is a tan color, meant to be used first in order to line the brows and make them pop. The second is the regular eyebrow pencil used to fill in sparse brows. I don’t use the lifter because it’s just one more step in my morning routine that I don’t care to take, but I have tried it and it does have a nice effect as long as you blend it properly. I typically just stick to the filler. As I explained in my Eyebrow Envy post, I prefer thick, dark eyebrows, and this pencil gives me just what I need. It’s creamier than a regular eyebrow pencil, giving it a nice finish and making it really easy to use. The only downside is that it’s super annoying to sharpen because of its consistency.

Eyebrow Lifter and Filler in Dark/Ivory

Eyebrow Lifter and Filler in Dark/Ivory

Next, let’s talk about the Maximum Coverage Concealer. I’m pretty OCD about my face looking even – I think everyone has some uneven spots on their face that they want to hide. Before this, I used a L’Oreal concealer to cover any unwanted spots, but it was too thin because it was intended for just under the eyes. The E.L.F. Maximum Coverage version is much thicker and really hides any imperfections. Some people may not like the thickness of the product, but I find it great for foolproof application.

Maximum Coverage Concealer in Nude

Maximum Coverage Concealer in Nude

If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll cover my whole face with the Flawless Finish Foundation rather than spot-treating with the concealer. The foundation is much thinner and more liquidy than the concealer, so it’s great if you hate that caked on feeling. It doesn’t do the best job of covering darker spots, but it gives my face an overall nice, even tone. The best part? The oil free concealer has SPF 15 built in so your face is always protected, even when you don’t think to wear sunscreen.

Flawless Finish Foundation in Sand

Flawless Finish Foundation in Sand

Moving on to the lips: I’m a big fan of the Jumbo Lip Gloss Stick. I have it in both Sangria Starters and Pink Umbrellas. I love the shape because it makes application so easy. The consistency feels more like a chapstick than a lip gloss, so you don’t have to worry about your hair getting stuck to it! Pink Umbrellas has more of a barely-there look, but I love the shimmer it gives. Sangria Starters is a deep wine color that’s great for nighttime. The only downfall to the lip gloss stick is that it isn’t super long lasting, so be sure to carry it in your purse with you for touch-ups!

Jumbo Lip Gloss Stick in Pink Umbrellas (left) and Sangria Starters (right)

Jumbo Lip Gloss Stick in Pink Umbrellas (left) and Sangria Starters (right)

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Finally, let’s get to the Matte Lip Color in Rich Red. When you take the cap off, it looks like a thin marker, and it applies just as easily. The color is more bright than rich as advertised, but I still love the statement it makes! I’ve never used a matte lip color before, and I really liked the way it looked. Now for the downside: I wore this one to the Beyonce concert – see my other post for pictures – and I had to keep looking in the mirror to reapply and make sure it hadn’t smudged, which it tended to do. Also, the matte finish makes your lips feel a little dry, but I think that’s just the name of the game.

Matte Lip Color in Rich Red

Matte Lip Color in Rich Red

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Now for two E.L.F. products from my first order I’ll warn you to avoid.

First, the Tone Correcting Concealer. Unless your tone is invisible, this product isn’t correcting or concealing anything. It was so thin that it felt like a complete liquid. Another odd observation? It smells exactly like fruity pebbles. Not exactly the scent you want on your face. In this case, I say “splurge” for the $3 concealer I mentioned above. 😉

Next, the H.D. Blush in Headliner. I swear I spent 20 minutes trying to scrub that monster off of my cheeks, and I had barely put any on. The second it touched my skin I knew it was a complete bust – I looked like I was on my way to clown school. I spent three whole dollars on that crap?

All in all, I’ve had an extremely positive experience with E.L.F. products considering the amazingly small amount of money I’ve invested. My advice is to spend a decent amount of time checking out the customer reviews of each product on the website. And when in doubt? Buy it. If you’re gonna take a risk, take a $1-$6 one!

Looking for Lana

By the time I arrived in Barcelona for my semester abroad winter of my junior year, I was hooked on Lana Del Rey. As I played her songs on 8tracks from my stark European bedroom, the space became the hangout spot for me and my roommates. Sure, it probably had more to do with the fact that I was closest to the front of the apartment, but the music played a big part. As we sat around on my prison-quality twin bed, planning our excursions around our new continent, we sung along to Del Rey’s unique, slightly off-color tunes. We planned, we giggled, we got emotional – all with the star’s voice crooning in the background. Lana Del Rey essentially became the soundtrack to the best time of our lives.

Her unusual sound, her retro-yet-edgy look, and her boundary-pushing lyrics – Lana had it all. I even wrote this article for Karmaloop during my internship last summer. It’s safe to say I was a little obsessed.

Lana Del Rey Obsession

Now, a year later, Lana’s new album Ultraviolence is nearing a month old.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m underwhelmed.

Where Del Rey’s tone was once a breath of fresh air, now it seems a bit inflexible. Where her lyrics were once edgy and thought provoking, they now seem a bit desperate. In my post last year, I stated that the singer seemed to overcome her past in a powerful way on her Born To Die album. On Ultraviolence, it seems like the singer/songwriter may never get away from her dark past. Rather than showing the ability to overcome, she shows passivity to the men in her songs. And that’s not the only thing Del Rey seems passive to: almost half of the songs in the album emphasize drugs. Heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, “violet pills,” you name it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike the album. I’d be lying if I said I won’t listen to it again. I just sort of dislike the artist’s current vibe. I guess when you put anyone on a pedestal you’re bound to be a little disappointed, right?

Lana Del Rey Artist Fight

So here’s hoping Del Rey cures her perpetual Summertime Sadness and comes back swinging with her next album.

After all, my post-grad life deserves a soundtrack, too.