Category: London Thoughts

bieber

It all started on a Monday morning.

I was sitting at my desk with nothing but a bowl of Ready brek to lift my spirits, and I needed inspiration of the artistic kind.

So I went onto Spotify, and asked it to show me the way.

“Gods of Spotify,” I pleaded. “Show me an artist who can raise me up.”

And the Gods of Spotify answered… They told me to listen to this song by Justin Bieber.

It’s called “What Do You Mean?” and it’s all about Justin dating this girl who's a mistress of mixed signals. He’s really confused – she keeps nodding her head, arguing with him, being overprotective and Justin just can’t work it out…

What does she mean?

And I can’t help him either because this girl sounds awfully discombobulating. But anyway, the point is that when I listened to this song – strange lyrics aside – something really weird happened. Which is that I found myself totally enthralled by the funky panpipes, background grandfather clock, and sultry vocals. It’s even got me having an existential crisis.

I say existential crisis, but really I’m trying to get round to the confession that I’ve become a Belieber.

Never say never
You think you know everything about yourself when you’re 26. Things like you’ll never like pigeons, people doing their make-up on public transport or Owen Jones.

Yet, to become a Belieber is spinning my world out of control. Who am I now?

Still, as I think about it, I don’t know why I was never one before. Because the more I find out about Justin Bieber, the more I’m convinced he’s a genius (the Mozart of Ontario, even) and that we should all be Beliebers.

I know the Bieb seems like this trivial, manufactured musician for silly teenage girls. But he's so much more than that, and I think we've all been taking him for granted. As musicians go, he’s exceptional. Just the other day I watched this video of him singing the original version of his song ‘Where Are U Now’ – a CHOON – which he wrote aged 15, and wanted to explode with awe. I would say 'pride', but who am I to say that - Justin's mom?!

This is a song I probably heard when I was about 20 and thought ‘meh’. That’s before I spent months struggling to teach myself Fight for this Love by Cheryl Cole on the piano. Such thankless days plonking away taught me that it’s bloody hard being good at the piano - let alone singing too – and I was seriously blown away by the Bieb as he mastered all these crafts (at an age when most boys are trying to master walking in a straight line).

Bieber has a slightly jaded look in his eyes these days and that’s because, over the years – a bit like Harry Styles – he’s been hung out as serious man-meat for the world to feast on. He’s so good looking and good at music that people simply don’t know how to process him, and eventually he became a bit uncool. In fact, really uncool. I should know - once I told my (then) teenage brother his hair was like Justin Bieber's, which I thought was a lovely compliment, and he looked at me like I was a witch.

I am trying to make a serious point in this post, though. Which is that sometimes we are so satiated with talent that we, quite simply, forget to realise how special some people are. And I know Baby is hardly Handel's Messiah. But like Handel, Bieber is a star. I even think that, like the Messiah, Justin is going to make a big come back.

And I hope we can welcome him with open arms. That we can step back and give our opinions of the Bieb some new-found consideration. We could all become Beliebers! And, as Justin says, you should 'Never say never' (to being a Belieber).

When I stop listening to 'What Do You Mean?' and 'Where Are U Now' 100 times a day, I will be excited to see what this strapping young man - I can say that now he's 21 - does next. And thrilled to tell the world: I'm a Belieber.

Follow Charlotte here - @C_C_Gill.

Image: Radio Times
Image: Radio Times

Young, Free & Single – aka ‘People with Reproductive Organs Living in a House’ – is the latest show to treat singles as a tragic species

If you’re twentysomething, you may remember in the nineties a certain distinctive toy: the goo aliens. They were slimy and weird, and if you rubbed two of them together they would magically produce a baby.

Channel 4 would like to make goo aliens out of unattached people in its latest offering: Young, Free & Single. Hosted by Steve ‘I snogged Angelina Jolie once’ Jones, the show shoves six love-hungry individuals into a ‘dating house’ in the hope that they’ll rub up and down together like, well, goo aliens.

Similar to most romance TV, its participants seem to come from a relatively small pool of people. In fact, I would guess that the makers of Take Me Out, Dinner Date and Love Island stole their stars from a Wetherspoons dancefloor – one night shoving them into a van and wheeling them into a studio. “Fancy copping off with some people you’ve never met before?” they asked their victims.

Luckily for the programme, they found participants who were not only happy to go on dates on television, but would also bump and grind their compadres at the first sip of a pina colada. The dates ranged in success: one couple had sex (or something resembling it), the other an argument and there was also some eating.

The show is live, which makes out for gruelling, social-media friendly television. As each participant goes on a date, audiences can vote on Twitter – using a hashtag – whether they should ‘Ditch’ or ‘Date’ their companion. I felt a bit sorry for the datees – in particular, an angry scouser called Jazz and a guy who looked a bit like a foetus in a Lankester Merrin hat, who were both rejected on very shallow terms indeed.

Despite its digital-savvy and interactive format, Young, Free & Single hasn’t done much to reinvigorate the desperately oversubscribed ‘romance television’ market. The problem is that only thickos want to do dating television. And maybe that’s because intelligent people have worked out that shoving two people together on a reality dating show isn’t really conducive to true love, however open-minded you are.

Mostly, such a system results in excruciatingly awkward outings, that neither party has the diplomacy skills to extract themselves from. Instead they end up coming across like animals in the zoo, gawped at across a screen by their higher more romantically-successful counterparts.

But the main problem for me is the stale formula of Young, Free and Single. It ends up being boring because, ultimately, putting two complete strangers together and expecting them to be like goo aliens rarely works. And dead-end endings get rather tedious after a while.

Follow Charlotte Gill at twitter.com/C_C_Gill

iggy azalea nose job

We love a big booty. Why not a big snooty?

Who nose why Iggy Azalea went under the knife.

I always liked her look. With her prominent facial features, large bum and moles, she challenged conventional ideas of what it is to be sexy in showbiz.

But yesterday, in Seventeen magazine, the singer revealed she had had plastic surgery.

The trumours began to surface after May's Billboard Awards, where there was something very distinctly different about the singer. Her snuffer had gone.

Of course, it hadn’t gone. But it had been shaved into a shape that dramatically transformed her face, making her look like all the other Kardashi-clones gracing the red carpet.

As someone with a big beak, I felt rather disheartened to see another one bite the dust. But who can blame Azalea? She’s just wearing the school uniform. Forget breathing, the nose has become a staple accessory in the quest for beauty. One of the few body parts where smaller is better.

It’s not only the A-listers turning to surgery. In 2014 Rebecca Adlington had rhinoplasty to reduce her nose after years of abuse about its size. That someone of her profession thought it essential to reconfigure her face spoke volumes about the state of things. It didn’t matter that she was an Olympic swimmer. She was a woman and she didn’t look right.

Azalea was a beacon of hope for women campaigning against a society that would like us to regress into infancy while retaining our sexuality

In years to come I fear that girls will be far more inspired by Adlington’s surgery than front-crawl technique. From statistics you can already whiff a worrying increase in the amount of women wanting nose jobs – 3,841 in 2013 (a 19 percent rise from 2012).

Many of these are teenagers. This trend doesn’t say to me women want to look better. It says: women want to look like babies. We have fetishised neoteny, and made ourselves into strange hybrids of young and old. Mature physiological assets such as big breasts, lips and bottoms are acceptable, whereas infantile features such as button noses and small hands are perceived as attractive and feminine.

But I don’t want to be a baby. And I don’t want to be like Azalea, or all these other women with disappearing faces: the Kardashians and Simpsons and Agrons of this world. In essence, they are experiencing the ‘Anti-Pinocchio’ effect: the lies grow (‘I haven’t had any plastic surgery’), but the noses shrink.

I can’t see how they are any better for filing away their noses. Just as I don’t feel anyone improves from plucking away their eyebrows or pumping collagen into their lips. Noses are what give us individuality and character; we are all the sum of our parts.

You only have to look at the likes of Lea Michele, Barbra Streisand and Davina McCall to see that quite apart from being – as Hollywood might suggest – a hindrance, a larger nose can be a positively sexy asset. One of plastic surgery’s greatest tragedies is, arguably, the loss of Jennifer Grey’s nose. It was big, sure. But it was great. Without it she’s not exactly unattractive – yet, she has lost a certain je nais se quoi.

Slowly but surely women are turning into an army of small-nosed, doe-eyed Martians, losing a very public fight against the plastic surgeons. Just the other day in between a Made in Chelsea television break I was presented with an advert for plastic surgery. If I was impressionable; more susceptible to the idea that my nose was some sort of face parasite, perhaps I would pick up the phone.

But I like my nose. So I didn’t.

I liked Azalea’s nose. She was really quite beautiful with it pre-surgery. But it’s gone now, and I mourn for it like a fallen soldier. Azalea was a beacon of hope for women campaigning against a society that would like us to regress into infancy while retaining our sexuality. My only bit of hope comes from big bums. They haven’t always been in, but somehow J Lo, Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose have made them the next big thing.

If we can promote a big booty, surely we can do the same for the big snooty.

Follow Charlotte Gill @C_C_Gill

simon pegg

If aesthetic standards for women are so high in the film industry, isn’t it time men measured up too?

The ubiquity of Simon Pegg has bothered me recently.

I mean, I didn’t mind when he was doing comedy and all that. Because he has one of those weird, adorable (being generous here) faces that will has the ability to make some people laugh (not me).

But then this weird thing happened.

A Hollywood producer was casting for a romantic comedy called Man Up. And they decided the male lead who would be doing all this love, and sex, and kissy stuff would be Simon Pegg.

Given that I have eyes, and a stomach, there was something that made me feel a bit nauseous about said decision. Just like I felt queasy in 2008, when I watched the gorgeous Kirsten Dunst have to snog Pegg's rodent-like face in How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.

Soz, Simon.

I’m sure you’re a nice guy – although you have been getting a bit cocky in interviews recently – but you’re not what women want. On screen, at least.

That’s why today I was unsettled to see Pegg back across my Netflix homepage, in an advert for his brand new show.

Netflix has never quite got it right with its algorithms. It thinks I am both a lesbian and gay man – all because I once selected that I liked Blue is the Warmest Colour and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. You just can’t win.

But it got it spectacularly wrong in suggesting to me I would want to watch Hector and the Search for Happiness.

After all, I know how to find happiness (at least when it comes to watching TV and films). And it starts with a hot bloke on my screen.

Goodness knows, as a woman I’ve earned the right to be critical of the calibre of men that grace my tele. Hollywood is incredibly tough on femkind when it comes to our appearance, and doesn't show signs of changing. In fact, I think we should celebrate extreme ideals. Beautiful people should be in art, and we should demand more from our male subjects.

Unfortunately, at the moment, we’re getting a rough deal.

It’s not just Pegg. In 2013 we got that rom com – About Time – where poor Rachel McAdams was forced to cuddle up to Domhnall Gleeson. We’ve also had Steve Buscemi play a serial womaniser in Boardwalk Empire, whom I find about as sexy as a trip to Morrisons.

And don’t get me started on the rusty balls contingent. Tom Cruise, Gary Oldman, Johnny Deep, and – yes, even you - Jude Law, are still very much alive and kicking in Hollywood. And we're still meant to believe some of the best looking women on the planet desire their wrinkly faces.

No one wants us when we’re wrinkly. Maggie Gyllenhaal recently discussed in the press how she was deemed - at thirty-seven years of age - too old to play the romantic love interest of a fifty-five year old. And I feel for her, truly.

But I also feel for me, and my eyes and my stomach when this picture comes out. I don’t want to watch a film about the underpant activity of a middle-aged man.

Just like I don’t want to watch films about smoochy Simon Pegg, or anyone else with a Picasso painting face in my rom com selection. He might give some form of hope that the 'ordinary man' can pull Kirsten Dunst. But it's not true, and - besides - films are about the extraordinary.

As women we are always demanding equal pay across the film industry. Perhaps it’s time we demanded equal aesthetics too. We’ve got a pulse – please get it racing, Hollywood.

Follow Charlotte Gill @C_C_Gill

Image: Sylvanianfamilies chocolagirl
Image: Sylvanianfamilies chocolagirl Youtube

Happy Birthday, Sylvanians! This year the famous toy brand is celebrating its 30th anniversary. So I wanted to write something about how great Sylvanians are. No, really.

Around twenty years ago I got my first Sylvanian, and I never looked back. I was getting a bit bored with Polly Pockets and Barbies. Mostly because I don’t like the idea of a one-sex nation, and there wasn’t really much I could do with the latter apart from make them go around on horses and chop off their hair. Even when Action Man and Ken joined the party, I found them a bit dry. I thought Barbie could do better.

But then one lovely Christmas, my parents bought me a Sylvanian boat. It was a wonderful barge that sailed along my bedroom floor, and came with a rat and some other indiscernible rodent creature.

In playing with all these characters, you start to form your own ideas about society and
even politics

Still, the barge wasn’t enough. And a few Christmases later I had a Sylvanian EMPIRE, with a mansion, bus (places to go, Sylvanians to meet) and even a treehouse that I nicked off my brother during his – sorry, Jack – Sylvanian-curious phase. It all sounds a bit Veruca Salt, but I absolutely treasured those things.

The main big win for me with Sylvanians is that – oh em gee, am I about to write this – is that they’re a progressive tool for children.

For starters, they’re very gender neutral. They’re not all girls! You can play with any number of characters, whether that’s mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles or aunties – totally breaking the weird Barbie/Action Man myth that girls only want to play with ‘girl’ toys and vice versa.

In playing with all these characters, you start to form your own ideas about society and even politics. Do you want the father in the frog family to be the Kim Jong-un of the Sylvanian world? Or perhaps the mother in the hedgehog clan could be the Jeremy Corbyn of Sylvania. The possibilities are endless.

Sylvanians are also quite a good metaphor for race. Can the dog family get on with the meerkats? You decide in your little Sylvanian cosmos.

My Sylvanians lived it large. A session of playtime could be like an episode of Eastenders. My toys went to the Sylvanian bar, got pissed, and even had affairs. There were tears of laughter, tears of pain, and yes, even a bit of nooky in my Sylvanian society.

My two favourite Sylvanian characters were a rabbit called Arnie and a panda called Clara. They couldn't keep their hands off each other, and produced several interracial Sylvanian babies. Whenever one would pop out of the womb, the Sylvanian midwife would exclaim: ‘it’s a rabbit!' or 'it's a panda!’

There were also class distinctions in my Sylvanian world. Unfortunately the rat and its rodent companion were very much the underclass, mostly cause I thought they were a bit ugly. The same goes for the badger family. They never made it into the Sylvanian mansion, but lived on a caravan somewhere in Sylvanian world.

Even nowadays whenever I go past the Sylvanian shop in Highbury – which once awarded me third place in a Sylvanian-colouring competition (I WOZ ROBBED!) - I feel a bit nostalgic for it all and quite tempted to dig out my empire from the attic (where Arnie et al remain, waiting for some action). I still remain convinced that they’re one of the best things to play with when you're a child. Forget the toybox, Sylvanians open Pandora's box to the big wide world.

Follow Charlotte Gill @C_C_Gill