SweetLeigh

A Sustainable Life. Make Magick.


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Icon: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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Rosetta Nubin Tharpe was a gospel superstar in the 30s 40s. Born in 1914 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas off of the Mississippi Little Rosetta’s deeply religious pentecostal family migrated to Chicago, on route bringing with her Delta Blues and her gospel roots. In Chicago she began her career placed on the piano – a 6-year-old singing and playing her guitar for all of her new church congregation to see.

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When you think of Rock n’Roll who do you imagine? I’ll bet it’s not a thick, chic, cherub faced Black woman with the voice of the gospel carrying an electric guitar who made rhythm & blues a whole new animal….

She was one of only two gospel artists who recorded V-discs for the troupes during WW2. Her recording of “Strange Things Happening Every Day” in 1944 with boogie-woogie pianist Sammy Price was the first gospel song to make Billboard’s Harlem Hit Parade Top Ten and is considered by some to be the first rock and roll record.

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Tharpe’s biographer, Gayle Wald put it this way, “If this woman was doing this in the 1940’s, then you have to go back and re-write the whole story of rock-and-roll, and rock-and-roll guitar playing specifically.” source

Married off to a tyrannical minister Tommy Tharpe at 19, she would eventually leave him and take her mother to NYC. There she started singing at the Cotton Club with Cab Calloway and scantily clad showgirls. Although gospel fans felt betrayed, her musical world opened up and started recording with Decca Records. RosettaTharpe1938_byJamesJKriegsmann_t640

She ultimately chose to keep with Gospel songs giving them a popular upbeat spin. People paid to see her wed her third husband in 1951 at a baseball stadium followed by a concert in her wedding dress. By 1957 she had disappeared from popular music. That however, doesn’t change her undeniable influence.

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Sister Rosetta died a legend for musicians in 1975. She was and is the influence to the likes of rock artists everywhere. One of my favorite bands the Noisettes have a great song about her. From Chuck Barry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and generations to come they all have been influenced by the amazing Sister Rosetta. Peter Townsend of the Who no doubt got his windmill signature move from Sister Rosetta as shared in this TV appearance from 1962. Just a little shredding with the choir to Up Above My Head.

Not only is she a pioneer but she is one sharp Goddess. Her style foresees some of my favorite glam designs of the 70s. Maxis with fabulous sleeves and simple timeless numbers.

Once you know about Sister Rosetta, it is impossible to forget her. Amen.

xoxo

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CineStyle: Pretty In Pink Of Course.

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Written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deustch, Pretty In Pink is the story of Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald). Andie is a senior in high school from the wrong side of the tracks. She works, does well in school, and takes care of her unemployed father. He still pines away for the woman who left them behind. Although Andie is mature beyond her years and an outsider at school, she longs for the things teenagers long for, a date to the prom. When she falls in love with Blaine, a rich kid, they both become the targets of scrutiny from her best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) and his best friend Steff (James Spader who epitomizes male white privilege in every scene) as well as their entire preppy crew. Andie has to decide whether or not to stand up for herself and what she wants and pursue a relationship with Blaine. Will they go to the prom?

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Marilyn Vance is the costume designer responsible for creating the wardrobe for the Molly Ringwald/John Hughes trifecta, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. Divine creative madness… You could also say she is partially responsible for my love of vintage, a staple of my youth but more so that she is wholly responsible for my love of refashioning as I first witnessed in the film when Andie endeavors to make the now infamous prom dress . Thank You Marilyn Vance!

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While Andie’s best girlfriend went the straight up punk route and the Rich kids were decked out in pure pastel prep through and through, Andie fell in between with her post punk granny chic. There were really only two looks that I absolutely loved on Andie both were pants that I immediately tried to emulate with my own wardrobe – to the amusement of the grocery store clerk. Kids are going to experiment, be kind.

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Duckie is perfection. He was the best of vintage shops, so stylish, so sweet and sentimental. He wore his heart on his vintage blazer sleeves along with and pins and brooches, military patches and ofcourse those worn out fabulous Duck shoes (Creepers).

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The main style attraction for me in this film is by far Iona. Caring, funny, a post punk new wave chameleon. My wannabe BFF who loves glamour vintage and playing. The “Costume” looks Vance gives her are so simply, BadAss. Iona is the style star of Pretty In Pink. Easily. Blaine and Steff aren’t really worth mentioning, although James Spader will always have my heart. He was and is so good at being bad.

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The Prom Dress. Most people hate it. I didn’t. I bought it hook line and sinker. This quirky, very individual girl, gathers up all of her courage and chooses to stand proud and alone at the prom – in this utterly unique design of her own making. Back then there were no sewing blogs, DIY’s, or designer’s latest collections to mimic at the touch of your computer. Back then we had to just have imagination, and read a lot. So yes, I love the extremely creative imagination of this very cool and brave 17 year old girl. I love  the dress.

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Movies are such a joy. And I love John Hughes films especially because I was growing up when these movies were made. They are a touchstone to my own adolescence. And somehow John Hughes always managed to touch your heart, get real and wrap it up in a never forced happy ending. I’ve been kinda blue lately. I think its time to get out my copy of Pretty In Pink. Cue OMD….

XOXO

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CineStyle: ZuckerBaby (1985)

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Percy Adlon stole a piece of my heart when I first saw Zuckerbaby (Sugarbaby). I suppose its because, like his films to follow, it is centered around quirky characters with kind hearts the only way I’d truly be happy with someone describing me. Zuckerbaby is a German (formerly West German) film that quickly became one of my favorite films and still is. I rented it from the little VHS video shop 3 blocks from my house in 1986 or 1987.  It was just before the movie Baghdad Cafe came out. Another favorite Adlon film of mine. I also fell in love with his favorite leading lady at the time – who starred in both films, Marianne Sägebrecht

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Marianne is a lonely funeral home assistant who cares for the deceased. Her daily routine is captured in her lonely little apartment, dreary place of work, and even her sad supermarket that seems to further depress her. One day she is awoken from this monotonous existence by a voice. A man’s voice that carries her away on her subway commute home. Finding herself far from home she gets off the train to see before her the train’s conductor. A young handsome man who has seemingly given her a new found purpose.

Due 8 weeks vacation, 38 year old Marianne negotiates 5 weeks off from her job and sets out to seduce this 25 year old young man. Plotting to determine who he is and how to find him she undergoes a metamorphosis. She goes from a shy and reclusive lonely woman to an emboldened, fearless huntress who not only finds her prey but wins his heart.
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One of the things I love most about the film is this candy colored world  that Marianne lives in. The colors of her world begin to transform from oppressive to brightening and from sad to sultry. Long before the Visible Belly Outline started to trend among fat activists, there was Marianne in that pink dress circa 1985. Needless to say I love her wardrobe. Chic, sexy and yes she is braless in most of her ensembles. And those shoes above. My goodness….

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I have been told by people my entire adult life how impressed they were with how comfortable I was in my body. That hasn’t always been true and although I feel comfortable in my skin, I am often affected by other people’s assumptions on my person. As we all know our feelings of self worth and self image can fluctuate on any given day. But watching this film as a teenager gifted me an image of a fat/larger women finding her joy and celebrating her sensuality and sexuality as a fact of life.

When you consider the limited imagery of people of size living their lives much less being represented as sexual beings, is it any wonder fat women especially have been so maligned and marginalized? Perhaps having seen this film gave me an advantage over many of my peers growing up. I saw this character, and believed that it was possible to be fat and desired, fat and confident, fat and content.

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In the U.S. not long after the film had been released Ricki Lake starred in a made for TV remake. You may have seen it, its called BabyCakes. Unlike Sugarbaby/Zuckerbaby the leading man in BabyCakes has no intention of accepting Ricki’s invitation to dinner at her house. He shows up only because he’s too drunk to make it home and had her address in his pocket. The “American” spin is one filled with cliches and excuses for why an attractive man has to be won over to a large woman based on her personality. In Babycakes it is thought unthinkable he might desire to get to know her, or desire her period.

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What is most impressive about Adlon’s screenplay for Zuckerbaby is that it never slights its subject or characters by reducing them to cliches. He merges the bittersweet realities of life with the fantastic joy in pursing ones desire. He creates a magical realism that is hard to resist and easy to believe.

xoxo

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Character Study: Denise Huxtable

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Oh my GAWD! The television show A Different World just showed up on Netflix to stream in its entirety! Leave it to Netflix to get me waxing nostalgic! A Different World was a great show that showed a diversity of Black people going to college that had never been seen before. Such a great funny show. And yes it had a lot of lesson episodes, because college kids are still kids, growing up.If you haven’t seen it check it out!  It was the the spin off of a little show called The Cosby Show that starred Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable going to historically Black Hillman College. Oddly enough I had been planning on donig a DH tribute anywho so can’t give them all of the credit! So Cool! Marathon is pending. But first we have to talk about Lisa or actually, Denise.

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Denise Huxtable was my first Alternative Black Girl. I later learned that she was almost every teenage girl’s favorite 80s TV style icon!  Not to mention just plain cool girl. Never mean, always cool. even when she was riled up. spoke her truth and kept it real. Vanessa was a little more shrill(!) in her early days but cool too as she became a teenager! #justsayin. Denise’s wardrobe full of Japanese designer pieces, prints and fabulous asymmetrical voluminous clothes screamed Bohemian art chics unite! Most of all it said Be your own fabulous self. And although there were plenty of outfits I would gladly have worn out of that closet, It wasn’t just about the sense of style that she had! Denise just resonated ease and confidence.That’s what we all admired, her ability to be that easy, that confident, AND that unique. Even if its total mythology, we still do!

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Apparently we have Costume Designer Sara Lemire to thank for the unique and extremely stylish Huxtables. In a 1987 Interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “With Lisa, I would have gone much more outrageous with the hair and hats, but I don’t have much control over the hair,” says Lemire, 44. (Other people are in charge of hair and makeup.) “Lisa always had great taste and liked great things. For me, it was like dressing myself if I was 20 years younger.” Can you imagine if she did what she wanted to do with Denise’s look??  Gush!

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Fun Fact: Lisa Bonet had eloped with musician Lenny Kravitz on November 16, 1987, announced that she was preggers in early 1988. A pregnant college freshman was not what the producers of A Different World had in mind, so she was fired! Of course she was rehired back on The Cosby Show for Season Five. Of course, she was outfitted in even bigger oversize jackets and loose-fitting patterned shirts until she conveniently went away to  Zaire to work with a photographer. When she came back from Africa, she was Denise Kendall, wife of a Navy officer and her wardrobe took another fabulous turn, as did her hair! Different as it should be but still fab. As always not afraid of perception and a stylin Icon. Who never took herself too seriously.

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Denise Huxtable and all of the Huxtable women were in fact Style Icons of not only the time, but forever! I love how the Philadelphia Inquirer piece ends. It is still so very relevant: ‘ “Most of all, Lemire keeps exploring the power of television, how it affects clothing and clothing affects characters and viewers. “I look at a lot of television and can’t understand what the costume designers are doing,” she says, shaking her head. “It looks like a lot of people have forgotten that it’s a visual medium.” ‘ So Freakin’ True, almost 30 years later!  I LOVE You Denise! No worries there will be a Lisa Bonet Style Icon post in the near future! I got you.

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For amazing Denise Love check out HuxtableHotness on Tumblr and a google search will hook you up like it did me. Thanks gawds I have responsibilities!

xoxo
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Crush: Lizzo

So I have been mildly obsessed with the video series Style Like U for some time. Its a phenomenal series of videos and interviews on stylish people’s closets.  They recently started a What’s Underneath project. Which is an exploration of body image and self image. Yay Style Like U! I also love that they committed the month of February to Black Lives Matter featuring some bad ass style Black identified industry professionals and artists. But this fabulous interview that quickly became my favorite is from October of last year. I am adoring Lizzo.

Not only is she a classically trained flutist turned rapper about to open up for Slater-Kinney’s Reunion tour, but a beautiful young woman in process of loving herself, and not afraid to discuss it. The way she saves her weave for last and discusses hair #UGH I adore this woman. Beautiful Soul, BadAss artist.

Ummmm Yeah, You’re Welcome.
xoxo

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Character Study: Elsa Mars

 

american-horror-story-season-4-spoilers_2I don’t own a tv but I love it as much as the next person. As much horror going on in the real world it is nice and perfectly ok to escape for a little while.  When American Horror Story “Murder House” debuted I LOVED it. But my aversion to “Asylums” and indifference to fictional Witches thus far led me to skip the show’s next two seasons. But knowing that AHS/Freak Show was coming this season, I turned to Netflix to see what I had missed. And boy did I miss out!

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I think that if the thread throughout AHS seasons is about reincarnation and maybe even purgatory. These characters, essentially the same people season after season are locked into a perpetual existence together, learning the same hard lessons, time after time. All of the same lessons that we are perpetually learning ourselves. The struggle to live with greed, envy, ambition, self-pity, death, identity, marginalization and trying if not highly challenged to eventually rise above.  It is sad and magical and beautiful. And of course so well executed and so touching. Although I AM Myrtle Snow in most respects, Elsa Mars, played by the astonishingly wonderful Jessica Lange, is my absolute favorite character in Freak Show and of course I am in love with her style!

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Elsa is the German Ex-patriate, ring mother to her “collection” of “freaks” and aspiring superstar. A former cabaret performer and Mistress (Of the S&M variety) in post warWWII Berlin, Germany she escapes a violent end to her career and seeks out the American Dream as detailed in too many a glamorous magazine.  Elsa’s lavish and fabulous dress is a bit dated and marks her love affair with the past.

jessica-lange-costume4-w724jessica-lange-costume5-w724Elsa with Jimmy AHS FreakshowThe year is 1952 and nothing has turned out as Elsa had planned and her desperation grows. She lives in stylish ensembles reminiscent of the 40s by day, fabulous furs, and bathed in lush silk robes and evening wear reminiscent of her youth of the 1930’s. Elsa is a sad, pitiful, dangerous and aging Marlene Dietrich in her own mind. Hiding from her carni “family” that she is indeed is a “freak” too, she is losing their trust as she disposes of all of those that she thinks stands between her and her stardom.

freak-show-s04e05-1Elsa is a Freak too Daily MailGlamourous and treachorous is Elsa. She is a Divine tragedy. And its hard to believe there will be redemption for our fabulous Ms. Lang’s character in this season….Who knows? To the Divine Ms. Mars. I can’t wait to find out!

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Thoughts: Plugging In

When my friend Michelle, blogger and naturalist posted this video on her Facebook page, I was prepared to roll my eyes, as I have recently plugged in a bit more. But to my delight I loved everything about “Low Battery,” by Prince EA I agree that we are living with a generation that is plugged into technology at the expense of plugging out of humanity. I think my generation (Gen X),  has tried to assimilate to this almost exclusively tech generation that exists now. In many cases people have had to assimilate as the market place is made up of start-ups based on websites and apps and the technical fields are dominant. I know I have moments where I think did I just speak in hashtag!? LOL.

I feel like blogging for me has become an extension of sharing my interior life and some of my processes. For example, my inner costume/movie geek! I find that I am actually using social media to share parts of myself I rarely share with others, be it in person or social network friends. As you may know, Yoga is something that I have recently begun doing and is helping me to become more present. Being present with other people has always been easy for me. Being present with myself has been more of a challenge. Funny that I would have never committed to this yoga journey without social media edging me on! That I would have a difficult time maintaining this fledgling practice if I wasn’t accountable to my instagram yogis! An accountability that has allowed me a discipline I didn’t know I had.

While my journey has utilized technology to get more personal and centered in myself, others are journeying towards finding their social footing, battling their anxiety and reaching out in the only way they can. I respect the way everyone needs or wants to better themselves and how technology might be a part of that journey. My end takeaway is take what you want from technology take what makes your life better, but leave behind what alienates you from living your life. Someone else will takeaway something else. Some words inspired by “Low Battery.”

iExperience my creative life and inspirations alone and love them without Measure.
Social media has become a way of sharing some of the solitary moments that iTreasure.
iAm grateful to have plenty of meals that I can just EAT.
iAm ecstatic to finally experience plenty of moments where I can just Be.
iAm grateful to have people in my life who I can Hug instead of Poke.
iAm lucky enough to have friends and family that I can Love instead of Like.
iAm present enough to say with all certainty that I am plugged into my Humanity.
iAm humbled enough to realize how very fortunate that makes Me.

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