Saturday, March 29, 2008

Girlfriend by Bow Wow & Omarion

I can't stand a lot of the pop songs I hear on the radio these days ("Low" by Flo-rida and the new Rihanna songs come to mind instantly) but I have a habit where once in a while I'll get obsessed with a pop song and play it incessantly until I overload and can't listen to it any more. This happens with not-so-poppy songs as well. It used to drive my college roommate nuts. ;-)

For a while, the song I was obsessed with was "That Girl" by the pop group NLT (which stands for Not Like Them, which is a poor choice for a name since they are EXACTLY like all other male pop groups before them). I became obsessed with it when my friend Kyoko showed me the video. In the video, the group crashes a high school dance in the gym. This isn't any ordinary gym, though. It's a gym whose floor opens up into a pool at the push of a button. The group and other kids, including, "that girl," jump in and the boys do a cool dance in the water. I LOVED the pool scene. I'm not sure why. Here's the video:

(I just realized the director is the same one I worked with during the Mastercard Priceless Experience internship)

Despite Kyoko's assertion that he is the "second ugliest" of the group, I fell in love with Kevin, who sings second, and was also the pizza boy on an episode of the Office.

Anyway, a while ago while I was at the gym I was watching the Tyra Banks show. Bow Wow and Omarion were on the show, promoting "Face Off" and they were so adorable. I became obsessed with their single, "Girlfriend." I've been listening to it recently, but one thing about the song always gets to me. There's this lyric:

"And her body's built like a stripper"

I get that strippers generally have nice bodies, but I'm not sure I would be excited if a cute guy came up to me and was like, "Hey, you've got a body like a stripper." It made me wonder:
1) Would other girls take that as a compliment?
2) Do these guys write the lyrics themselves? They're so cheesy...

Here's the video:

Yes, it's wildly inferior to the NLT video.

Yes, the song is terrible. But it's catchy, and sometimes that's all you need for a hit...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Small Fish in a Big Pond

The main reason I opted for a traditional liberal arts education over a design school education was because in my research on the fashion industry in high school, I learned that most of my favorite designers had failed on the business side of things despite being critical successes. Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Isaac Mizrahi -- all had encountered financial problems at one point or another, usually more than once. Before passing up all other options, I wanted to make sure that 1) I definitely wanted to do fashion, even if it meant almost certain failure and 2) I tried to understand the business side of things and what I would be getting into. I also wanted to have a backup plan.

Once I entered college, though, I was a bit at a loss as to how I would figure this all out. Harvard prides itself in not being a technical school, so I couldn't study pure business or fashion. The closest "concentrations" (Harvard-speak for majors) were Economics and Visual and Environmental Studies (Harvard-speak for fine art). At first I thought I could maybe do a joint concentration with these two subjects but I ran into a couple of barries.

Firstly, the Economics department haughtily informed me that a joint concentration with VES would be next to impossible because it would be hard to find anyone in the VES department who could read a joint thesis (joint concentrations require joint theses), if I could even figure out how to do a joint thesis. Secondly, because of the small class sizes, it was very difficult to enter a foundation VES course without declaring VES as a concentration. I foolishly did not declare VES as a concentration, even though I could have always gone back and changed my concentration whereas once I didn't get into the VES course I applied to, that was that.

So my first semester I took classes that were largely uninspiring, although in retrospect, I'm glad I took the economics classes that I did while at school. Freshman year at Harvard was a humbling experience. Like many Harvard students, I went from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. I learned that I had never really learned to study -- one doesn't absorb much information while chatting on AIM til the wee hours of the night. I joined the orchestra because it was something I had always done, and found myself loathing the conductor and rehearsals. Also, like many college freshmen, I didn't really know how to deal with all my newfound freedom.

Second semester was equally rough (I decided to take Orgo -- big mistake) but after a talk with one of my friends, I decided that this would be my last opportunity to give my love for art a fair shot. I took an introductory painting course and I loved it. By the end of the semester I knew that I wanted to be a VES concentrator. I also knew I had to figure out a way to break into the fashion industry. Once I got home in May, I started looking for internships in New York.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Doctor or Designer?

In French class in high school, there was one exercise where we went around the room saying what we wanted to do for a living. I remember responding either a doctor or a fashion designer.

My dad's a doctor and I liked science well enough, so it seemed like a viable possibility. The real reason I wanted to be a doctor though, was that I was hooked on the show ER and in love with George Clooney/Doug Ross. I had been a fan of Michael Crichton's books and enjoyed ER immensely.

However, I had never let go of the dream of being a designer. I would pore over copies of Vogue and doodle during class. My favorite designer at the time was Marc Jacobs. This was at least a decade ago, before Marc Jacobs became a household name.

While in high school, I took a class for high school students at Parsons. I ended up having to drop out though, because I didn't have enough time for it.

When senior year rolled around, it seemed silly to forfeit all the hard work I had done academically over the years to apply to design school, especially since I didn't have a portfolio. I did consider going to Brown so that I could cross-register at RISD, but I knew that if I was going to go to a "good" school, I wanted to go to the best. I applied early to Harvard and got lucky.

Years later, maybe during my senior year of college, I went to my House office and asked to see my file. I looked at my application. There wasn't much in the way of notes but I noticed that there were circles around where I had written "fashion designer" as intended career.

So, maybe fashion got me into Harvard. Fashion definitely found me there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Understanding the Parents

Before I proceed to vilify my parents somewhat, I must state that I know that their motivations were and are pure. They simply want what they think was best for me. The circumstances in which they grew up were completely different from the ones which I experienced.

They grew up in a South Korea that had been ravaged by the Korean War, struggling to rebuild itself after a crippling Japanese occupation. Each parent has stories to recount. Before my mother was born (she being the second youngest of seven), her parents had spent the early years of their marriage in Manchuria, where my grandfather managed to amass a small fortune. However, upon returning to Korea after World War II, he saw his fortune reduced to nothing because of the devaluation of the currency. He managed to find success in other business ventures, but even though they were relatively well-to-do, things like meat and eggs were considered luxuries to be eaten on rare occasions.

My dad's parents escaped to South Korea from the North soon after the Communists took over. The family was fairly affluent early in my father's childhood (my father was the second eldest of seven). However, my grandfather made a few bad investments which reduced the family to poverty. My father vividly remembers being evicted from his house as a child, and how he and his whole family were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night, carrying their blankets and other belongings on their heads. I remember him quietly and somberly telling me how one time he remembers his father dropped a bowl of rice on the floor, but since the family was so poor, he dusted it off and ate it, and gave my father a clean bowl. At a young age, my father started tutoring other students to help support his family.

My parents did not want this for me.

I know there are people who have experienced much worse, but these stories are meant to illustrate why my parents were so risk-averse when it came to a career choice. This is why my father became a doctor (as opposed to an astrophysicist, which is what he wanted to be) and why my mother chose to marry one. And why they wanted my brother and me to become a doctor as well. Their rationale was that there are always patients, and so a doctor would always have a means to make a living.

However, sometimes what parents think is best for their children isn't. Sometimes I wonder what sort of thing my children will resent me for -- will they want to pursue a more traditional path than me and will we be at odds because I want them to try something else? Or will it be because I make my four children start a rock band and they resent me for robbing them of their childhood?

Wait, what?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Artists are Poor

When I was a wee lass, I read a brief Picasso biography and had a conversation with my mom that went something like this:

Me: I want to be an artist.
Mom: No, artists are poor. You should be a doctor.

So from a young age, the thing I gravitated to most naturally was put to the side in favor of academic and extracurricular pursuits that would improve my chances of getting into a good college (When I was ten I decided I wanted to go to Yale, although I changed my mind junior year of high school).

My parents didn't discourage my interest in art but it was viewed merely as a hobby. I would take it as an elective during Korean school on Saturdays. Up through middle school it was a required elective and it was definitely my favorite class. I loved art class, and I would stay 'til the last possible minute to work on my pieces. A couple of times I took a few art classes outside of school but it was hard to fit into my already busy schedule and seemed more like a luxury than a necessity.

In high school I had to go out of my way to put art class in my schedule since there were set classes I had to take if I wanted to stay on the AP/Honors track. I remember hesitating somewhat about taking art because it would technically lower my GPA (since it wasn't an honors class).

I couldn't take art until junior year when my schedule opened up for the half credit class, so I was in a class with freshmen, my brother's year. I remember vividly sitting next to this skinny little white kid who was really funny. He was Italian-American but fancied himself a black man, wearing big baggy jeans and gold chains. He would sing Biggie/Junior MAFIA songs. That was how I was first introduced to the song, "Juicy."

Friday, March 7, 2008

It All Started With Cinderella

Sometimes when people talk to me, they're surprised that I am pursuing a career in fashion. Perhaps it's because I went to Harvard, or perhaps it's because I often dress like a homeless person (especially according to my parents).

The truth is, I've wanted to "do" fashion since before I knew what fashion was.

My earliest memories of this is back when I was a young girl. There is a scene in Disney's Cinderella which captured the magic of fashion for me. It's that scene when she's locked up in her little tower, and the mice take these odds and ends and magically transform them into a beautiful dress. I also had a Disney Cinderella picture book, and I would pore over the pictures, and try to copy the images with my paper and crayons.

Some girls loved playing house and with Barbie. For some reason, I wasn't really into dolls, but I loved to draw. I would draw variations of Cinderella in her ballgown -- beautiful women in beautiful dresses. Of course, my dexterity as a child was lacking so the pictures weren't as great as I thought they were. My mom would put them up in our tiny apartment and when my aunt (her eldest sister) would come over, she would yell at her to take down those tacky pictures.

But something kept me drawing -- I think it's because whenever I drew a picture, I'd feel it wasn't good enough.

I would draw during class a lot, and give the drawings to my friends, who would be appalled when I would try to crumple them up and throw them away. I've made quite a few friends by giving them drawings of my women in pretty clothes.

There is a quote in Karl Lagerfeld's most recent interview:
"There is always disappointment in the work. But I always have the feeling there is a glass border I cannot cross. "

You know you love doing something if this is the way you feel about it -- this desire for (unattainable) perfection.