Sunday, 13 December 2015


Image from, edited
My friend made me giggle last Christmas when we watched "Gilda" together, a film from 1946 starring the beautiful Rita Hayworth - in her introductory scene, she tosses her lacquered hair and turns directly to the camera. Her appearance is immaculate - her skin is flawless, she appears full of confidence - she is the epitome of Hollywood movie star, "As IF anyone actually looks like that!", my friend gasped. I discovered that she wasn't far wrong when a few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about Rita Hayworth. I learned that she had a dreadful time with her relationships and mental health, to the extent where, later in life, she couldn't remember where or who she was. Her identity and her mind slowly fell apart. I learned how her hairline had been painfully altered and how she'd been coerced by someone feigning riches to marry her. What he wanted, as did the audiences, was Rita Hayworth the uber-glamorous, impossibly beautiful star.

Rita Hayworth's character in Gilda. Image from
This month, following frank revelations about college life, Lady Gaga has been doing some soul-searching and encouraging her 'little monsters' to do the same. Lecturing on emotional openness and broadcasting that she has taken anti-anxiety medication for a long time, her work with Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence is a absolute breath of fresh air and much-needed. Decades after the heyday of Hollywood's most revered stars, it seems the time of authenticity and honesty is dawning in the A-list "Wizard of Oz" realm.

Image of Lady Gaga from

It may sound naive but I've never considered myself influenced by media just because I wasn't aware that I watched that much TV. I'm discovering how even the smallest exposure, and of course my love of film and music, has had a massive impact on my development. The very first first Big Brother seemed in its "raw" reality back when I was a college student. I found the lack of scripts, the distinct lack of glamour, portrayal of real life  a tonic, somehow. Yet it made little difference -  I was still intoxicated and seduced by glamour and constantly wished the boring grey suburbs around me away. I longed for the gloss, the excitement, the fizz of what I saw as spectacular.

Although some great things have resulted from that journey (not least my exercise and eating regime), I've been slowly but surely stepping away from the sweet-pretty Hollywood dream of life as every day I am shown the power of honesty. When the masks of host of people I'd considered icons started to be shown as little more than masks, and when even ghetto bling seemed to be taking over the world (or at least my world at uni), big-time producers like Timbaland and P Diddy were reporting about their battles with depression, back then questions I found difficult surfaced about my own motivations and why I would spend time reading about these hyper-luxurious ways of life.

Miley Cyrus, artwork from ...And Her Dead Petz album 
After a couple of years of shoestring travel where I felt incredibly naked and vulnerable without my favourite clothes, shoes, aftershave and accessories to accompany me, I'm slowly learning how to be more honest with myself and aware of how I feel. It's painful sometimes. I would often like to be in my alter-ego to escape, to be in another world. Being here was/is sometimes too much.

I still enjoy the glitz of performance, and social media pictures and magazines - but I'm learning how to remind myself that they're little more than carefully cropped and edited images. It's such a relief to hear superstars like Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron say there's nothing they enjoy more than being with families, or in the wild or at home with their pets. In some bizarre way, it gives me permission to let go of the idea that everything should be fabulous and shiny all of the time. I thought if it wasn't, I was inferior. I have no idea where this belief came from.

Because I've striven for that kind of shine, even in my attitude, I'm often seen as the happy, playful or joyful one. I guess mostly I am because I believe in the power of kindness and positivity, but on the flipside, when I'm not in that zone I feel such shame. I either avoid my friends or I apologise for complaining and not being 'sparkly'. I recently told my sister that I think I'm an introvert and feel very awkward in certain social situations. I was shocked that I'd said it, and by her pause, I think she was surprised to hear it. But since I'm the one always reading about how healthy it is to be emotionally literate, I thought that I should actually give it a try. It could, or more likely will, save my life.

It's at this point that I feel 100 years old because everyone at a certain age says, "You just don't care as you get older and do what you want". I never quite knew what that meant, but I think if Gaga at 30 is inviting her Yale students to say 'no' whenever they don't want to do something, then perhaps I'll re-consider the role of polite friend/brother/son and go with my heart. Gulp.

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