Instead of celebrating Adele’s weight loss, may I suggest something else? | Poppy Noor

Adele has reportedly lost weight, and is being lauded for it but there are many other reasons why we should admire her

Adele may have dubious positions on taxation, but one thing is for certain: the rest of her resume is nearly flawless. Her first album, some of which she wrote at age 16, went platinum 11 hours- an achievement surpassed by her second album. She is the only artist in Grammy history to have taken home the three biggest awardings in one night , not once but twice. And let’s not forget the time she accepted her album of the year award while calling out the establishment for not giving it to Beyonce.

Adele achieved all of these things while being criticized for being too fat. In a jolt to health guru everywhere, she even did it while smoking 25 cigarettes and drinking 10 sugary cups of tea a day. But she has now lost some weight– paparazzi pictures taken this week while she was on holiday made it clear- and is now celebrated and criticised for it( females can’t win, remember ?).

How predictable. Instead, may I suggest that Adele should be celebrated for her apparently healthy relationship to fame. Since becoming famous, she has gone through at least one album-worthy breakup and a divorce. She has had a child, gone through post-partum depression, and has get over has become a” massive drinker “. She did so with grace and an insistence on keeping strong bounds around her private life( she intentionally dedicates very few interviews ).

And yet, she hasn’t said too many stupid things in the media( outside her aforementioned tax remarks) and seems largely unconcerned with the rumor mill. She has escaped many of the toxicities of fame: she hasn’t paid for sex, fought with hard drug or had to take a break from social media.

In short, Adele seems to handle life better than I do when I forget to have breakfast. She has built hundreds, probably thousands of healthy choices in the last few years. So why are concentrated on her weight loss? Aren’t there ample other things to applaud?

Of course, we shouldn’t berate women for weight loss either( or weight gain, for that matter ). It is an unbelievably personal achievement, and there still is huge pressure for women to be slim. Sometimes weight loss is about health benefits, confidence, ill health or all three. Sometimes, it’s not even a decision. Any or none of these things may be why Adele lost weight.

But significant weight loss does not come without restriction. Ordinarily, a person has to cut out at least 500 calories a day to lose 1lb a week- that’s a quarter of a woman’s daily diet. Some people say that exercising is a healthier way to lose weight, but the average US woman would need to run over 21 miles a week to achieve that calorie deficit.

Sure, applaud the willpower, but let’s be clear: there is no miracle diet , no special hypnotherapy or diet pill that achieves weight-loss. There is surgery, but let’s not feign that’s pain-free.

I’d rather celebrate Adele for other things. Like the route she manages her divorce with humor; tells a mob of famous actors that she’s just at the Golden Globes for a night out; and managed to pen an entire album about an ex without ever publicly dragging his name through the dirt. Those things are proof of character- her weight, at best, is incidental.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Body of work: why Billie Eilish is right to stand her ground against dishonor

Billie Eilish has done everything right in her career so far, but thats not enough for a celebrity industry fixated on sex

Billie Eilish has given the music industry everything it could possibly want. An authentic new voice that appeals to teens and their parents. A debut album that has sold more than 2m transcripts in the US alone. A decisive stylistic evolution from the preceding decade’s dominant pop mode. A clean sweep of the four key categories at the Grammys. A copper-bottomed streaming success model. A James Bond theme that rejuvenates a tired franchise and widens her commercial and creative clout.

Until she offers up her prime commodity as a young female pop starring, it will never be enough.

While 18 -year-old Eilish is a beguilingly physical musician, she has never shown her body in service of her art. She opts loose garb because she feels comfy in it, and has denounced the use of her image to dishonor female pop starrings who dress differently. Not that it’s stopped anyone. Denying spectators the traditional metric by which female superstars are judged- sexiness, slimness; the body as weathervane that reveals how tormented or contented they must be when they lurch between the extremes of those states- has created an obsession with her body and what it must stand for.

Eilish’s world tour- which opened last night in Miami- underscores these contradictions:” While I feel your gazes, your disapproval or your sighs of relief, if I lived by them, I’d never be able to move ,” she says in a video demonstrate between sungs, as she removes her top and sinks into a pond of black water.” Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer? Taller? Would you like me to be quiet? Do my shoulders elicit you? Does my chest? Am I my stomach? My hips ?”

As if to prove her phase, the Sun reported on Eilish” stripping to her bra” with zero mention of her speech or its message, and titled their narrative” Thrilly Eilish “. Again: Eilish is 18 years old.

alexa 78 (@ ILOMIL0S)

empowering pic.twitter.com/ IBOl9LF 0rU

March 10, 2020

It’s hard to think of any previous generation of young female pop starring getting away with making such a public admonishment at the height of their stardom. Motown’s girls were taught comportment by an in-house employee. The anorexia that killed Karen Carpenter was framed as an effective diet. To have her art taken seriously, Kate Bush had to endure the objectification of male journalists who typed with one hand. The Spice Girls had to wait until after the band’s demise to discuss their respective eating disorders, lest they disrupt the image of supportive female friendship. Britney, Christina and Beyonce’s millennium-era abs were testament to their drilled work ethic; Katy Perry and Ariana Grande’s burgeoning images were dependent on marketing their sexuality, while Taylor Swift’s taut middle stoked her image as an American ideal. To recognise Amy Winehouse’s bulimia would have complicated a convenient media narrative of debauchery.

In that context, Eilish’s freedom to speak out represents a kind of progress. It’s symptomatic of the control that she has retained over her career, and its impact on her fans is potentially profound. But being anointed a liberating force in the body-image stakes is its own kind of prison, one that preserves physicality as the ultimate measure of a female star’s worth- and the standard by which they can be undermined. The music industry and the media like to pat themselves on the back for stimulating superstars of Eilish and Lizzo, who often joins her in headlines about body positivity, though if these women one day wish to change their physical presentation, they will be accused of betraying fans and squandering their authenticity.

It is a minority of female musicians who are permitted this limiting form of freedom in the first place. Beyond Eilish and Lizzo’s presence at this year’s Brit awards, the photos from the red carpet looked like scenes from 2002: female musicians and influencers bearing aggressively toned abs, low-slung sparkly pants, attires with gaping cutaways to highlight those impacts. The media may praise Taylor Swift for speaking out about the ailment feeing that she experienced until a few years ago, but it still perpetuates the standards that mean record labels will subject young, female pop starrings to the penalizing diets and exercise routines that Swift has described from her past. Female musicians who gain weight rarely return to the prime of their careers. Dua Lipa’s new video features an exercise routine. The narrative around Adele‘s fourth album, due later this year, is already centred on her recent weight loss.

Ever since the pianist Clara Schumann proved herself a concert virtuoso, female artists have had their creative worth tied to their physicality. The standards are so penalizing and contradictory that it is hard not to suspect that they are purposefully engineered that way, to guarantee obsolescence as they succumb to human fallibility, thus clearing the decks to wave in a new phalanx of young bodies to ogle. As long as the industries that depend on its exploitation continue to exist, and new generations of onlookers are trained in envy and contempt for those bodies, this won’t change.

As the industry races to replicate Eilish’s success and the media starvations for more young girls to compel positions, you’d hope they would heed how this therapy has evidently affected her and ensure that no young female superstar is ever again subject to these vicious criteria. As if.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Parenting here means checking the ingredients of teargas’: my return to Hong Kong

Emma-Lee Moss, who makes music as Emmy the Great, on life, new motherhood and her divided birthplace

It feels as if the entire world’s press is there, standing on the pavement outside the Foreign correspondent’ Club. They’re in Hong Kong to cover the protests, but tonight, the Friday before National Day, they’re off duty. From the bottom of the hill, the bars of Lan Kwai Fong thrum reliably. There is an uneasy peace in the air, as though we all know that, three days from now, the long-running citywide demonstrations will reach a violent new apex.

I’ve walked this route hundreds of hours, and been a parade of different egoes. I’ve been a adolescent trying to score 7-11 brew on the spot where Chungking Express was filmed. I’ve been a visiting novelist ordering drinks at the FCC bar. But now I am the mother and primary carer of a nine-month-old, and my time out has been negotiated. Quite frankly, I am dazzled by the world after 7pm. As I shuffle past the media crowd, I feel a pull, a yearning. In another life, I’d be there with them. When I moved back to Hong Kong in 2018, it was in search of stories about the strange, convoluted city I was born in.

I take the lift up to a wood-panelled room and join a table of thirtysomethings wearing plastic bloom garlands. I am expecting to be the main event tonight, at the reunion of my primary school class. For nine years, I was the only mixed-race person at my local Cantonese school, where I was known widely as gweimui ( literally” ghost girl “). Chinese school is where I developed a persist complex about not fitting in, and where, after being bullied, I fantasised that one day I’d do something so momentous it would appear in a newspaper, and my classmates would see that I was more than only a girl with an English dad and a Hong Kong mum.

This thought was the founding brick of ambition that drove me to become a musician and novelist, under the name Emmy the Great. Now my want has finally come true, but with a caveat. I am at this reunion because person ensure an article about me in an arts magazine, but it wasn’t about any of my albums, or projects, or anything I’ve written. It was about what it’s like to have an English dad and a Hong Kong mum. Some 25 years later, this is still my most noticeable feature.

I look around the table, disoriented by faces I never expected to see again. Surely they will want to know about the amazing life I went on to lead! I prepare the necessary Cantonese vocabulary in my head.” After we left primary and secondary schools, I moved to East Grinstead, Sussex. In England, I wasn’t a white girl any more. I was considered Chinese. In England, I had to assert over and over that I was British- still do. But I was so grateful for the grass and open space that I accepted this identity. I never expected to be back here in Hong Kong, a gweimui once more. And, abruptly, I’m a mother, too! I never sleep. I never go out. I’m caught between expat and Cantonese culture. I’m losing my mind, actually. How are you ?”

But despite a morbid obsession with the incorrects perpetrated on me by a group of 10 -year-olds, I can’t maintain my guess from the topic of the moment. The city has been tense and uncertain since the first major demoes began in June, initially in response to a bill that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China, but now expanded to five demands, including universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police conduct. Parenting has thrown up new challenges, like cry the council to ask for the ingredients of their teargas, and its effect on children. As each new weekend approaches, the population theorizes. Will it be peaceful, or will it spill into violence? Will we wake to news that stimulates us tearful with pride for Hong Kong, or frightened by the scale of the escalation?

Tonight, as China gears up to celebrate its 70 th year as a republic, there is no doubt about which style the news will sway. Someone at the reunion says they are boycotting products from the mainland, including tea. Another, a tiny son who has inexplicably grown into an adult, says he won’t use the MTR metro system any more , now that it’s been accused of enforcing the government’s agenda by shutting down during protests. I spot an opening to admit that, the day the demoes began, I was in England, on tour. By the time I got back, teargas had become the stock police response, and my partner and I decided we wouldn’t attend demonstrations- in case we find ourselves incapacitated and unable to care for our daughter. Instead, I say nothing. I don’t tell them, either, that we are planning to leave Hong Kong for England when our daughter turns one, because I’m self-conscious about having one foot in Hong Kong, and one abroad. This is how it’s always been. It’s how they remember me. And, ever since the protests began, I am wondering if it stimulates me a part of the problem.

***

I can only tell you what I remember. In 1994, Forrest Gump was the English-language film at every cinema for months. Every weekend, my parents would throw their three children into a Volvo and drive to Pacific Place, a mall in the Admiralty district. We’d fulfill our friends, expat families whose children went to see international schools, at McDonald’s, where the kids would climb the Ronald McDonald in the playzone, until we were allowed to go to the CD store and pick out an album. Everybody wore Nikes and had a favourite WWE wrestler and Street Fighter move.

In 90 s Hong Kong, everyone could speak English, even taxi drivers like my Uncle Ron, who had crazy hair and had once cut a demo videotape in a stoner-rock band. But my siblings and I spoke Cantonese, too. On the weekends that we didn’t see our friends, we had dim sum with my mum’s family: Auntie Dora, Uncle sam and Uncle Ron; my two older cousins, too, one of whom had recently taken a new English name, Michael Jordan Lee.

Moss
Moss with her grandmothers, 1988. Photograph: courtesy Emma-Lee Moss

American basketball, Japanese anime, Oxbridge ambitions. In Hong Kong- where the phrase” east fulfills west” is so overused that I’ve seen it advertising a shampoo parlor for dogs – you were at the centre of the world town, a place where global capitalist culture could operate unfettered, dominating the rites and oddities of the Chinese way of life. Watching over everything is was benevolent, late-stage British colonialism; its influence oozed into everything, from the names of English lords on road signs, to the ” Chinglish” that imbued the local Cantonese dialect. Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, was vaguely popular, his final approval ratings still higher than any subsequent leader. It was China that we feared and felt distinct from, even as schoolchildren.

As the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 approached, the expat families began discussing their various plans to leave. Many had one mother who was from Hong Kong, and one from abroad. The handover was an obvious deadline to fulfil any aspirations of living in” the other place”, where you went to visit your grandparents. Our closest family friends went to Australia, Singapore, Germany and Texas. When the day came that the British flag was folded up, and the People’s Liberation Army marched in, we were already scattered various regions of the world, watching on Tv while our moms cried. I didn’t see my best friends, Dan and Ash, again until I was 18. Today, when I text them images of Pacific Place filled with protesters, they joke:” Forrest Gump tickets released again ?”

Looking back, it’s easy to view 1997 as a year of mass exodus from the city, a few moments marked by the loss of foreign professionals( who are still inexplicably “expats” while other temporary workers are “migrant workers” ). But to do that would be to ignore the vast majority of Hong Kong people, who are Hong Kong-born Chinese, speak Cantonese as a first language and were not offered British passports by the departing government. They include my uncles, my aunt, my cousins, my classmates. There are also the minority ethnic groups who are as rooted in Cantonese culture as Hong Kongers. For households like mine, the handover was an opportunity to start again. For those who stayed behind, it was the beginning of a period of uncertainty. The Basic Law- a de facto constitution- promised Hong Kong” a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. This created, in principle, a liminal time between British and Chinese rule during which the question” Who are we ?” became crucial and explosive.

In his volume Generation HK, on the young Hong Kongers who came of age in the post-9 7 period, the journalist Ben Bland describes the end of British rule as leaving an” identity vacuum “. In fact, the end of the colonial epoch also left an opportunity for Hong Kongers to regroup, to allow Hong Kong-Chinese culture to lift itself from the darkness, and to look back and ask what of the city’s history would be preserved, and protected, before it was absorbed into the mainland.

Today, you can’t take a step without hearing the phrase:” This is the real Hong Kong .” It is a thought that emerges when you find yourself in an alleyway inhabited by street vendors selling milk tea from polystyrene beakers; when the sunlight begins to drop over Aberdeen harbour( in Cantonese, Little Hong Kong) and a fisherwoman steers her craft, one hand on her Samsung Galaxy; when teenage couples hold hands at the entrance to Ocean Park( real Hong Kong ), the amusement park that was never defeated by the arrival of Disneyland( not real Hong Kong ). It is an inescapable theory, as tangible as rain, all the more sweet for the fear that it will soon slip away.

For Hong Kongers today face inordinate pressure that goes beyond the cliff edge of 2047. The high live costs associated with its status as a haven for the wealthy have led to an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, which discovers its most extreme expression in” cage homes” for those who cannot afford housing. Meanwhile, whenever Beijing’s influence creeps beyond the promises of the Basic Law, it throws up ambiguities in its wording. The impact is like gaslighting: are we crazy? Or are our liberties being eroded?

The quest for post-colonial identity is something that lured me back to Hong Kong in late 2017. That spring, I had expended a month in Xiamen as part of a British Council scheme, and the effort to communicate in Mandarin( which, it is about to change, I don’t speak ), had somehow unlocked all the Cantonese I’d stored up from my childhood. I was dreaming in Cantonese, and felt a longing to be back in Hong Kong, to see the lanterns at the Mid-Autumn festival.

My mothers, sister and nephew had been back in the city for some time. As well as this, there was a person. While in transit from Xiamen, I had met a British artist who worked at one of the international galleries. We had bonded over our scattered thirties and our love of English woodlands. That Mid-Autumn, we began an adventurous period of walking through the city at twilight, the time when the lighting ricochets off the buildings like mermaid scales in the wind.

It was three years since the Umbrella Revolution and Occupy Central. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the civil unrest had dissipated. Instead, I sensed a defiance in Hong Kong and linked it to the arts. Venues had been shut down by strict building regulations, and lifestyle restrictions that induced earning money from music almost impossible, and yet, as the indie DJ Wong Chi Chung told me, there were more than 800 indie bands based in Hong Kong. Improvisation was key: wall murals around unexpected corners, rooftop farms, pop-up art spaces in old mills. It was a place opposing to find itself, asserting its right to be. It was increasingly where my heart belonged.

In January 2018, I decided to return to Hong Kong. My flight arrived in March. Forty weeks later, my partner and I checked into the hospital where I was born, and I devoted birth to our daughter.

***

” Does anyone is of the opinion that the city’s flaws are their own fault ?” This is the question that nobody hurls me in the subsistence group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes; in the free playgroup run by friendly septuagenarian churchfolk; in the parenting WhatsApp groups and in the void of the mums’ Facebook pages where I have stooped to scrolling for hours through ads for baby products.

Some 18 several months after I arrived in Hong Kong, my quest to understand it has mutated into something terrible. It’s the not-sleeping that did it, I believe. Or those submerged infant memories that abruptly appear in your thoughts when you’ve just had a baby, disorienting enough without the realisation that you’re unexpectedly in the place where you spent that infanthood.

Emma-Lee
‘ Hong Kong was increasingly where my heart belonged .’ Photograph: Theodore Kaye/ The Guardian

I remember bumping into a friend in London, who had just had a baby and was moving back to Finchley, where she grew up. “ Finchley ,” she’d groaned, like Persephone on her route to suburban hell. Now I know how she felt. You are my Finchley, I scream at Hong Kong, silently.

On a baby’s schedule, you are stripped of the things that stimulate you who you are. Hong Kong, which should feel familiar but doesn’t, contains none of the touchstones I need as my identity slips into the blank of what the poet Liz Berry describes as “feedingcleaninglovingfeeding”. I look around and ensure my first home with the bleakest gaze. I find pollution that threatens my baby’s lungs and stops us going outside for days. I consider expensive housing that drew us to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere, where our road to the playground takes us through a construction site and past a sewage treatment plant. I place my family in this picture. Were we and the individuals who left not the prime recipients of the sunny 90 s, before unfettered capitalism and political change took its toll? Every time we fly away, we are opting out of the consequences.

In this new, dark Hong Kong, my uncles are gone, having both passed away while we were in England. No sweet Uncle sam , nor Uncle Ron in his emerald green taxi. In motherhood, I come up against uncomfortable aspects of the culture I shared with them. There is the culture preoccupation with postpartum weight loss, which leads a nurse to praise me when I lose too much weight in the first week of breastfeeding. There are the rigid ideas of what motherhood looks like: installing an art piece I worked on with the data journalist Mona Chalabi, my two-week-old in her sling, the technician tells me that I should be at home, in incarceration. Yet, when I hear expats complaining about such difficulties, I am angry. I cannot let myself relate to them; it feels like cheating on my relatives. In the space between my two demographics, I see how divided the city can be. There are gulfs of language, gulfs of experience. Varying privileges are doled out are in accordance with nationhood.

In the 20 th weekend of protests, graffiti appears on the mountainside:” If we burn, you burn with us .” My writer’s brain finds how Hong Kong and I are in tune. We know how pressure can take a search for identity and turn it into a full-blown identity crisis.

Protest
Protest graffiti in Causeway Bay, 8 November. Photograph: Emma-Lee Moss

In early November, a student dies from injuries sustained while falling from a car park in unexplained situations. In the eruption that follows, there are no easy conclusions left. Protest schedules are abandoned, school is cancelled. There is no playgroup. There is no support group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes. The total number of teargas canisters fired reachings10, 000. My partner is teargassed stepping outside his office in the day, to check if the street is safe for his colleagues. Universities become battlegrounds. At the Polytechnic University, schoolchildren are among those caught inside the campus for days when the police seal off the exits. Then pro-democracy nominees win a landslide majority in district council elections, and there is a respite from conflict. As new councillors get to the urgent task of freeing the final Poly U students, the city wonders what else this national mood will achieve.

Medics
Medics result protesters to ambulances at the Polytechnic University, on 21 November. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/ AFP via Getty Images

In the midst of this, my time in Hong Kong is drawing to an end. I reflect on everything it has meant, this second time around. This precious time with my mothers, the responses to old questions. My relationship and my daughter. In the rawness of new parenthood, and the chaos of the last few months, I almost missed the gifts that Hong Kong gave me, the healing it offered. Even in these nasty days, there is a sense of the possibilities in community- my old schoolfriends and I are less distant in our communications. We have become simply another group of parents worried about the rumours of harmful chemicals in the teargas.

I’ve learned here that you don’t know if people or places will return to your life. You also don’t know when they won’t; I believed I’d make a final visit to the village where I grew up, but it’s next to the Chinese University in Shatin, the site of another major conflict between students and police. I guess this is the fear that follows everybody in Hong Kong today. When the smoke clears, what, if anything, will remain intact? In this place of many living and many rulers, how many times must we say goodbye?

* If you would like a comment on this piece to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in print, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publishing ).

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Parenting here entails checking the ingredients of teargas’: my return to Hong Kong

Emma-Lee Moss, who attains music as Emmy the Great, on life, new motherhood and her divided birthplace

It feels as if the entire world’s press is there, standing on the pavement outside the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. They’re in Hong Kong to cover the protests, but tonight, the Friday before National Day, they’re off responsibility. From the bottom of the hill, the bars of Lan Kwai Fong thrum reliably. There is an uneasy peace in the air, as though we all know that, three days from now, the long-running citywide demonstrations will reach a violent new apex.

I’ve walked this route hundreds of periods, and been a parade of different selves. I’ve been a teen trying to score 7-11 brew on the spot where Chungking Express was filmed. I’ve been a visiting novelist ordering beverages at the FCC bar. But now I am the mother and primary carer of a nine-month-old, and my time out has been negotiated. Quite frankly, I am dazzled by the world after 7pm. As I shuffle past the media crowd, I feel a pull, a yearning. In another life, I’d be there with them. When I moved back to Hong Kong in 2018, it was in search of stories about the strange, convoluted city I was born in.

I take the lift up to a wood-panelled room and join a table of thirtysomethings wearing plastic flower garlands. I am expecting to be the main event tonight, at the reunion of my primary school class. For nine years, I was the only mixed-race person at my local Cantonese school, where I was known widely as gweimui ( literally” ghost daughter “). Chinese school is where I developed a persist complex about not fitting in, and where, after being bullied, I fantasised that one day I’d do something so momentous it would appear in a newspaper, and my classmates would see that I was more than simply a girl with an English papa and a Hong Kong mum.

This thought was the founding brick of ambition that drove me to become a musician and novelist, under the name Emmy the Great. Now my wishing has finally come true, but with a caveat. I am at this reunion because someone watched an article about me in an arts magazine, but it wasn’t about any of my albums, or projects, or anything I’ve written. It was about what it’s like to have an English dad and a Hong Kong mum. Some 25 year later, this is still my most noticeable feature.

I look around the table, disoriented by faces I never expected to see again. Surely they will want to know about the amazing life I went on to lead! I prepare the necessary Cantonese vocabulary in my head.” After we left primary and secondary schools, I moved to East Grinstead, Sussex. In England, I wasn’t a white daughter any more. I was considered Chinese. In England, I had to assert over and over that I was British- still do. But I was so grateful for the grass and open space that I accepted this identity. I never expected to be back here in Hong Kong, a gweimui once more. And, suddenly, I’m a mother, too! I never sleep. I never go out. I’m caught between expat and Cantonese culture. I’m losing my intellect, actually. How are you ?”

But despite a morbid preoccupation with the incorrects perpetrated on me by a group of 10 -year-olds, I can’t keep my supposes from the topic of the moment. The city has been tense and uncertain since the first major demonstrations began in June, initially in response to a bill that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to China, but now expanded to five demands, including universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police conduct. Parenting has thrown up new challenges, like yell the council to ask for the ingredients of their teargas, and its effect on children. As each new weekend approaches, the population speculates. Will it be peaceful, or will it spill into violence? Will we wake to news that attains us tearful with pride for Hong Kong, or frightened by the scale of the escalation?

Tonight, as China gears up to celebrate its 70 th year as a republic, there is no doubt about which style the news will sway. Someone at the reunion says they are boycotting products from the mainland, including tea. Another, a tiny son who has inexplicably grown into an adult, says he won’t use the MTR metro system any more , now that it’s been accused of enforcing the government’s agenda by shutting down during protests. I spot an opening to admit that, the day the demonstrations began, I was in England, on tour. By the time I got back, teargas had become the stock police response, and my partner and I decided we wouldn’t attend demoes- in case we find ourselves incapacitated and unable to care for our daughter. Instead, I say nothing. I don’t tell them, either, that we are planning to leave Hong Kong for England when our daughter turns one, because I’m self-conscious about having one foot in Hong Kong, and one abroad. This is how it’s always been. It’s how they remember me. And, ever since the protests began, I am wondering if it induces me a part of the problem.

***

I can only tell you what I recollect. In 1994, Forrest Gump was the English-language film at every cinema for months. Every weekend, my parents would hurl their three children into a Volvo and drive to Pacific Place, a mall in the Admiralty district. We’d gratify our friends, expat families whose infants went to see international schools, at McDonald’s, where the kids would climb the Ronald McDonald in the playzone, until we were allowed to go to the CD store and pick out an album. Everybody wore Nikes and had a favourite WWE wrestler and Street Fighter move.

In 90 s Hong Kong, everyone could speak English, even taxi drivers like my Uncle Ron, who had crazy hair and had once cut a demo tape in a stoner-rock band. But my siblings and I spoke Cantonese, too. On the weekends that we didn’t see our friends, we had dim sum with my mum’s family: Auntie Dora, Uncle Sam and Uncle Ron; my two older cousins, too, one of whom has now been taken a new English name, Michael Jordan Lee.

Moss
Moss with her grandmothers, 1988. Photograph: courtesy Emma-Lee Moss

American basketball, Japanese anime, Oxbridge aspirations. In Hong Kong- where the phrase” east satisfies west” is so overused that I’ve seen it advertising a shampoo parlor for puppies – you were at the centre of the world town, a place where global capitalist culture could run unfettered, dominating the rituals and oddities of the Chinese way of life. Watching over everything is was benevolent, late-stage British colonialism; its influence oozed into everything, from the names of English lords on road signs, to the ” Chinglish” that pervaded the local Cantonese dialect. Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, was vaguely popular, his final approval ratings still higher than any subsequent leader. It was China that we feared and felt distinct from, even as schoolchildren.

As the transfer of sovereignty in 1997 approached, the expat families began discussing their various plans to leave. Many had one parent who was from Hong Kong, and one from abroad. The handover was an obvious deadline to fulfil any aspirations of living in” the other place”, where you went to visit your grandparents. Our closest family friends went to Australia, Singapore, Germany and Texas. When the day came that the British flag was folded up, and the People’s Liberation Army marched in, we were already scattered various regions of the world, watching on TV while our mothers cried. I didn’t see my best friends, Dan and Ash, again until I was 18. Today, when I text them images of Pacific Place filled with protesters, they joke:” Forrest Gump tickets released again ?”

Looking back, it’s easy to view 1997 as a year of mass exodus from the city, a few moments marked by the loss of foreign professionals( who are still inexplicably “expats” while other temporary workers are “migrant workers” ). But to do that would be to ignore the vast majority of Hong Kong people, who are Hong Kong-born Chinese, speak Cantonese as a first language and were not offered British passports by the departing government. They include my uncles, my aunt, my cousins, my classmates. There are also the minority ethnic groups who are as rooted in Cantonese culture as Hong Kongers. For families like mine, the handover was an opportunity to start again. For those who remained behind, it was the beginning of a period of uncertainty. The Basic Law- a de facto constitution- promised Hong Kong” a high degree of independence” for 50 years. This created, in principle, a liminal day between British and Chinese regulation during which the question” Who are we ?” became crucial and explosive.

In his volume Generation HK, on the young Hong Kongers who came of age in the post-9 7 period, the journalist Ben Bland describes the end of British rule as leaving an” identity vacuum “. In fact, the end of the colonial epoch also left an opportunity for Hong Kongers to regroup, to allow Hong Kong-Chinese culture to lift itself from the shadows, and to look back and ask what of the city’s history would be preserved, and protected, before it was absorbed into the mainland.

Today, you can’t take a step without hearing the phrase:” This is the real Hong Kong .” It is a thought that emerges when you find yourself in an alleyway populated by street vendors selling milk tea from polystyrene cups; when the lighting begins to drop over Aberdeen harbour( in Cantonese, Little Hong Kong) and a fisherwoman steers her craft, one hand on her Samsung Galaxy; when teenage couples hold hands at the entrance to Ocean Park( real Hong Kong ), the amusement park that was never defeated by the arrival of Disneyland( not real Hong Kong ). It is an inescapable concept, as tangible as rain, all the more sweet for the fear that it will soon slip away.

For Hong Kongers today face inordinate pressure that goes beyond the cliff edge of 2047. The high live costs associated with its status as a haven for the wealthy have led to an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, which determines its most extreme expression in” enclosure homes” for those who cannot afford housing. Meanwhile, whenever Beijing’s influence creeps beyond the promises of the Basic Law, it hurls up ambiguities in its wording. The impact is like gaslighting: are we crazy? Or are our liberties being eroded?

The quest for post-colonial identity is something that enticed me back to Hong Kong in late 2017. That spring, I had expended a month in Xiamen as part of a British Council scheme, and the effort to communicate in Mandarin( which, it is about to change, I don’t speak ), had somehow unlocked all the Cantonese I’d stored up from my childhood. I was dreaming in Cantonese, and felt a longing to be back in Hong Kong, to see the lanterns at the Mid-Autumn festival.

My parents, sister and nephew had been back in the city for some time. As well as this, there was a person. While in transit from Xiamen, I had met a British artist who worked at one of the international galleries. We had bonded over our scattered thirties and our love of English woodlands. That Mid-Autumn, we began an adventurous period of walking through the city at twilight, the time when the sunlight bouncings off the buildings like mermaid scales in the wind.

It was three years since the Umbrella Revolution and Occupy Central. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the civil unrest had dissipated. Instead, I sensed a defiance in Hong Kong and connected it to the arts. Venues had been shut down by strict building regulations, and lifestyle restrictions that induced earning money from music almost impossible, and yet, as the indie DJ Wong Chi Chung told me, there were more than 800 indie bands based in Hong Kong. Improvisation was key: wall murals around unexpected corners, rooftop farms, pop-up art spaces in old factories. It was a place fighting to find itself, asserting its right to be. It was increasingly where my heart belonged.

In January 2018, I decided to return to Hong Kong. My flight arrived in March. Forty weeks later, my partner and I checked into the hospital where I was born, and I dedicated birth to our daughter.

***

” Does anyone is of the opinion that the city’s flaws are their own fault ?” This is the question that nobody hurls me in the support group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes; in the free playgroup run by friendly septuagenarian churchfolk; in the parenting WhatsApp groups and in the void of the mums’ Facebook pages where I have stooped to scrolling for hours through ads for baby products.

Some 18 months after I arrived here Hong Kong, my quest to understand it has mutated into something terrible. It’s the not-sleeping that did it, I guess. Or those submerged baby memories that abruptly appear in your thoughts when you’ve just had a baby, disorienting enough without the realisation that you’re unexpectedly in the place where you spent that infanthood.

Emma-Lee
‘ Hong Kong was increasingly where my heart belonged .’ Photograph: Theodore Kaye/ The Guardian

I remember bumping into a friend in London, who had just had a baby and was moving back to Finchley, where she grew up. “ Finchley ,” she’d groaned, like Persephone on her route to suburban hell. Now I know how she felt. You are my Finchley, I scream at Hong Kong, mutely.

On a baby’s schedule, you are stripped of the things that construction you who you are. Hong Kong, which should feel familiar but doesn’t, contains none of the touchstones I need as my identity slips into the blank of what the poet Liz Berry describes as “feedingcleaninglovingfeeding”. I look around and find my first home with the bleakest gaze. I assure pollution that threatens my baby’s lungs and stops us going outside for days. I watch expensive housing that drew us to an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere, where our route to the playground takes us through a construction site and past a sewage treatment plant. I place my family in this picture. Were we and the others who left not the prime beneficiaries of the sunny 90 s, before unfettered capitalism and political change took its toll? Every time we fly away, we are opting out of the consequences.

In this new, dark Hong Kong, my uncles are run, having both passed away while we were in England. No sweet Uncle sam , nor Uncle Ron in his emerald green taxi. In motherhood, I come up against uncomfortable aspects of the culture I shared with them. There is the culture preoccupation with postpartum weight loss, which results a nurse to praise me when I lose too much weight in the first week of breastfeeding. There are the rigid ideas of what motherhood is like: installing an art piece I worked on with the data journalist Mona Chalabi, my two-week-old in her sling, the technician tells me that I should be at home, in imprisonment. Yet, when I hear expats complaining about such difficulties, I am angry. I cannot let myself relate to them; it feels like cheating on my relatives. In the space between my two demographics, I see how divided the city can be. There are gulfs of speech, gulfs of experience. Varying privileges are doled out are in accordance with nationhood.

In the 20 th weekend of protests, graffiti appears on the mountainside:” If we burn, you burn with us .” My writer’s brain watches how Hong Kong and I are in tune. We know how pressure can take a search for identity and turn it into a full-blown identity crisis.

Protest
Protest graffiti in Causeway Bay, 8 November. Photograph: Emma-Lee Moss

In early November, a student dies from injuries sustained while dropping from a car park in unexplained circumstances. In the eruption that follows, “there arent” easy conclusions left. Protest schedules are abandoned, school is cancelled. There is no playgroup. There is no subsistence group for women with postnatal depression and nervousnes. The total number of teargas canisters fired reachings10, 000. My partner is teargassed stepping outside his office in the day, to check if the street is safe for my honourable colleagues. Universities become battlegrounds. At the Polytechnic University, schoolchildren are among those caught inside the campus for days when the police seal off the exits. Then pro-democracy nominees win a landslide majority in district council elections, and there is a respite from conflict. As new councillors get to the urgent task of freeing the final Poly U students, the city wonders what else this national mood will achieve.

Medics
Medics leading protesters to ambulances at the Polytechnic University, on 21 November. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/ AFP via Getty Images

In the midst of this, my time in Hong Kong is drawing to an objective. I reflect on everything it has meant, this second time around. This precious period with my parents, the answers to old questions. My relationship and my daughter. In the rawness of new parenthood, and the chaos of the last few months, I almost missed the gifts that Hong Kong gave me, the healing it offered. Even in these awful times, there is a sense of the possibilities in community- my old schoolfriends and I are no longer distant in our communications. We have become simply another group of mothers worried about the rumours of harmful chemicals in the teargas.

I’ve learned here that you don’t know if people or places will return to your life. You also don’t know when they won’t; I thought I’d make a final visit to the village where I grew up, but it’s next to the Chinese University in Shatin, the site of another major conflict between students and police. I guess this is the fear that follows everyone in Hong Kong today. When the smoke clears, what, if anything, will remain intact? In this place of many living and many rulers, how many times must we say goodbye?

* If you would like a comment on this piece to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in publish, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publication ).

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Selfies, influencers and a Twitter president: the decade of the social media celebrity

From Gyneth Paltrow to Trump, todays starrings speak directly to their fans. But are they genuinely controlling their message?

I have a friend, Adam, who is an autograph seller- a niche profession, and one that is getting more niche by the day. When we gratify for breakfast last month he was looking despondent.

” Everyone takes selfies these days ,” he said sadly, picking at his scrambled eggs.” It’s never autographs any more. They just want photos of themselves with celebrities .”

Anyone who has attended a red carpet event or watched one on Tv, knows that selfies have securely supplanted autographs, with fans careening desperately towards celebrities with outstretched phones instead of pens and paper. Celebrities have adapted accordingly. In 2017, a video of Liam Payne ran viral that depicted him miserably working his way down a line of selfie-takers, his smile lasting as long as it took for each fan to press click.

A photo of oneself with, say, Tom Cruise, feels more personal than a mere scribbled signature, which he could have given anyone( and could have been signed by anyone ). But the real reason selfies have abruptly rendered autographs as obsolete as landline telephones is because of social media. Instagram is constructed for photos , not autographs, and what’s the point of having your photo taken with Payne if you don’t then immediately post it and watch the ” OMG !” s and” NO Way !!!!” s come flooding in? If you stand next to a celebrity and your friends don’t like the photo, did it ever happen? Do you even exist?

Instagram launched in 2010, four years after Twitter, six years after Facebook. Although social media was originally pitched as a way for people to keep in touch with their friends, it quickly also became a way for people to feel greater proximity to celebrities, and to flaunt this closeness to others. Facebook, with characteristic hamfistedness, attempted to monetise this in 2013, when it announced it was trialling a feature that would allow users to pay to contact celebrities for a sliding scale of fees: 71 p for Jeremy Hunt, PS10. 68 for Tom Daley. But there was no need for people to spend money for the privilege, because celebrities had already proven extremely keen to bend down low and share their lives with the peasants. When Demi Moore appeared on David Letterman in 2010, she was already so addicted to Twitter she continued to tweet while live on air to millions. (” This stinks ,” Letterman griped .)

The appeal of social media for a celebrity is obvious, in that it allows them to talk to the public without those awful middlemen: journalists. The past decade is littered with examples of why celebrities( and their publicists) now prefer social media( which they can control) to giving interviews( which they cannot .) It’s unlikely that Michael Douglas would have tweeted that his throat cancer was caused by cunnilingus, as he told the Guardian’s Xan Brooks in 2013( and for which he later publicly apologised to his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones ). It’s even less likely that Liam Neeson would have made an Instagram story about the time he went out hoping to kill a” black bastard” after a friend was raped, as he said in an interview this year. Why risk such disasters when, instead, you can just take a flattering photo, slap a filter on it and post it to your already adoring followers? Mega celebrities with a hyper-online fanbase- Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Frank Ocean- can now go for years without giving an interview and their careers are helped rather than harmed for it.

Instagram is an airbrushing app, one that lets people touch up their photos, specifically, and their own lives, generally, by determining what they choose to post.( When Jennifer Aniston ultimately joined social media last month, and momentarily broke the internet, she naturally chose Instagram over the bearpit of Twitter .) Some are more honest about this than others: after he married Kim Kardashian- the celebrity who more than any other has made a virtue out of artifice- Kanye West proudly told reporters in 2014 that the two of them expended four days of their honeymoon in Florence playing with the filters on the wedding photo, that they eventually posted on Instagram,” because the flowers were off-colour and stuff like that “.

Frank
Frank Ocean: a mega celebrity with a hyper-online fanbase. Photograph: Rex/ Shutterstock

You wonder what they’d do with all that time if the internet didn’t exist- remedy cancer, perhaps? Musician John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen have established a new kind of fame for themselves with their regular social media posts: with Teigen complaining about Donald Trump on Twitter; both of them posting photos of their perfect household on Instagram. Teigen is considered more “real” than her friend Kardashian because she is funny and doesn’t take money to advertise dodgy weight-loss supplements. But their photos are as idealised and managed as any Hello! shoot. The reason Teigen- a heretofore relatively little known model- has over 26 million adherents on Instagram is because she hits that social media sweet place, which is to be( to use two of the more grating buzzwords of the decade) aspirational and authentic.

At the beginning of this decade, it was the aspirational side of the equation that was deemed more important- leading to the rise of a new kind of celebrity: the influencers. This bewilder group of people indicate their lives are so perfect that, by showing us photos of how they eat, dress, mother, travel, decorate, exert, put on makeup and even remedy themselves of illness, they will influence us to do the same. For the successful, the money was suddenly limitless, as brands realised that the public trusted influencers more than adverts, and so threw money at them to endorse their products; Kylie Jenner, a makeup influencer, currently makes$ 1m per sponsored post. This was always a delicate bubble and it finally began to burst last year, when the Advertising Standards Authority decreed that influencers need to spell it out when they’re being paid to promote something. Writing ” ADVERT ” beneath that perfect photo of you chugging some Smart Water next to a waterfall doesn’t really boost one’s authenticity.

Even more problematic were the Fyre Festival debacle and the fall of YouTube superstars such as Logan Paul and PewDiePie, scandals that eroded the relationship between online celebrities and their followers. It turns out influencers weren’t more trustworthy than adverts; in fact, in the unregulated world of the web, they were markedly less so.

An older demographic has sneered at influencers, as they did with the previous decade’s reality Tv stars, indicating they are not ” real” celebrities. This is an absurd complaint, in recognition of the fact that some influencers have more adherents than traditional movie stars do. Yet influencers atomise audiences in a way traditional celebrities don’t: even if you have never bought Vogue, you’ll know who Cindy Crawford is; unless you follow Chiara Ferragni on social media you will likely have no idea who she is- and yet the style influencer has four times as many adherents as Crawford.

Ironically, the rise of the influencer began with a very old-school celebrity, one who is frequently accused of being the personification of the worst kind of elitist privilege: Gwyneth Paltrow. When Paltrow launched her wellness website, Goop, in 2008, few would have predicted it would reshape both Paltrow’s career and cultural notions of what constitutes an aspirational lifestyle. Paltrow helped usher out the 2000 s trend for bling and Cristal, swapping them for yoga clothes and gluten-free kale crisps, stimulating discreet asceticism the ultimate -Alister look. Which is more authentic is debatable, but the biggest swap Paltrow stimulated was personal: “shes gone” from being an Academy Award-winning actor to online influencer. And, in recognition of the fact that her company is now estimated to be worth $ 250 m, she probably stimulated the more lucrative choice.

Happily , not everyone uses social media to hawk fantasy images of themselves. Occasional glimpses of reality peek through, to everyone’s delight, and by “reality” I entail “feuds”. We’ve had Katy Perry and Taylor Swift’s long-running snarky subtweets aimed at one another. There were Kim Cattrall’s explicit swipes at Sarah Jessica Parker on Instagram. After her brother died, she wrote:” I don’t need your love or support at this tragic time @ sarahjessicaparker. Let me make this VERY clear.( If I haven’t already .) You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I’m writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your’ nice girl’ persona .” Most recently, Coleen Rooney accused” Rebekah Vardy’s account” of selling tales about her to the tabloids. One can only feel deep stabs of regret that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford died before either had access to an iPhone.

As much as young celebrities tout the importance of authenticity, those who come across as most genuine tend to be the older ones- perhaps because they are less internet savvy, or, more likely, have fewer media directors. Bette Midler and, in particular, Cher have really come into their own on Twitter, gleefully sharing their often emoji-heavy supposes on Trump and politics in general. (” What do you think of Boris Johnson ?” one tweeter asked Cher.” F-ing idiot who lied to the British ppl ,” the goddess replied, rightly .) And while Instagram may be best known for hyper-stylised photos of, say, Beyonce holding her newborn twins, the most purely enjoyable celebrity accounts belong to Glenn Close- she posts candid videos of herself and her puppies, always liked by Michael Douglas- and Diane Keaton, who posts decidedly unstylised photos of herself.” YES, I AM WEARING[ TROUSERS] UNDER A SKIRT” is a typical all-caps caption. Ever wanted to know what Annie Hall would be like online? Now you know.

Actor
Sarah Jessica Parker, target of Instagram swipes from fellow Sex And The City star Kim Cattrall. Photograph: Reuters

Of course, the downside to being able to reach one’s public immediately is that the public can reach back. Stars from Stephen Fry to Nicki Minaj have publicly left social media sites after the audience proved a little less admiring than they hoped. “Stan”- or obsessive fan- culture has blossomed. Sometimes this has been to the celebrity’s benefit: Lady Gaga’s fan squad, the Little Monsters, amped up her Oscar campaign for A Star Is Born. But if stans feel they have been let down by the object of their preoccupation, they will viciously bully the( usually female) star, as Katy Perry and Demi Lovato have experienced. As a outcome, many celebrities have turned off the comments on their accounts, so we can hear them but they can’t hear us. So much for getting closer.

And yet, for all the fascination social media currently exerts, the celebrity narratives that will have the most enduring impact did not start there. There had been rumors about Harvey Weinstein for years, but he was ultimately undone by good old-fashioned investigative reporting, by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times, and Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker. Michael Jackson, R Kelly, Woody Allen, Max Clifford, Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer became pariahs( in Jackson’s case, posthumously) when their accusers spoke to journalists. Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world , not on social media, but on the covering of Vanity Fair. When Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, the artist formerly known as Meghan Markle, spoke out against the “campaigns” against her, they directed their rage towards the print media( and the Mail on Sunday in particular ). Ironically, this could be seen as instead reassuring to the newspaper industry: sure, our sales are falling, but for a certain kind of celebrity, publish is still what matters.

Nonetheless, this decade has, in a very profound way, been shaped by the social media celebrity. Donald Trump did not emerge from the online world; he came to prominence through the traditional format of TV. But he has taken advantage of the route Twitter prioritises personality over expertise: it doesn’t really matter what you say, as long as you say it in a way that captures the most attention; and the public has grown accustomed to this kind of communication. In the early part of the decade, Trump devoted himself a Twitter makeover; it was a platform where he could move from being the embodiment of obnoxious Manhattan privilege( bragging in interviews that he wouldn’t rent an apartment to anyone on welfare ), to the say-it-like-it-is kinda guy, the one who tweets about the dangers of vaccination. When he ran for the presidency, Trump maintained this persona, and many people assumed that’s all it was- a persona- and one he would fell once in office. Well, we all know how that turned out.

Now he, and in this country, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, treat their offices as if they were a form of social media: they rely on the web to build a dedicated following, and complain about journalists who venture anything but adoring coverage. They disdain traditional interviews, preferring instead to put out their messages via Facebook or Twitter, metaphorically turning off the comments, staying comfortably inside their respective bubbles. Social media was never supposed to reflect the real world, but the real world is increasingly being bent to reflect social media. And it’s not only autograph vendors who will suffer for that.

* If you would like a comment on this piece to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in publish, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publishing ).

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Missy Elliott- Beyonce said:’ If I sound crazy, don’t set this out! ‘

As she returns to the spotlight, the hip-hop icon talks Michelle Obama, collaborations and the truth behind her hiatus

It must have been an eye-opening experience to watch Missy Elliott’s performance at the MTVvideomusicawards last month if you had never encountered her before. Her six-song medley was a thrill-ride of kaleidoscopic visuals, VMAdancers and costume changes: Elliott was a cyberqueen, a B-girl, a scarecrow, an airborne beachball, a one-woman advertisement for what pop music can be. The performance, marking her video vanguard award, instantaneously went viral, capped a year of accolades( an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music, the first female rapper in the Songwriters Hall of Fame) and coincided with the Iconology EP, her first new body of work since 2005. It dazzled the uninitiated while reminding millions of older fans what a vital creative force-out the 48 -year-old was and how much we had missed her.

Two days later, Elliott is still bathing in goodwill.” It’s a bles ,” she says, calling from New York.” A bles !” She has a throaty southern accent and a brilliant, exclamatory laugh. After a month of planning and two weeks of rehearsals, she says the set went like a dream.” The only hour I was scared was when I was backstage and I had to keep changing clothes really fast. I thought:’ Oh God, I’m not going to have my gasps on in time. I might be in my panties !’ Ha ha !”

Katy
Katy Perry and Missy Elliott perform at Super Bowl Halftime in 2015. Photograph: Christopher Polk/ Getty

This is not Elliott’s first comeback but it feels different. The last day she returned to the public eye, as Katy Perry’s guest during the course of its Super Bowl half-time show in 2015, she “freaked out” the night before, daunted by the size of the audience and the length of time she had been away.” I ended up in the hospital for having an anxiety attack ,” she says.” I guess any artist who has had a break such as that one would be anxious. I recollect Katy saying:’ This is the perfect time to perform your new record. It’s the biggest platform .’ I was like:’ I don’t even know if they recollect the old ones so I most definitely don’t want to do a new one !’ I’m always anxious whenever I fell anything because you only never know if they’re going to get it. So I’m always biting my nails and pacing the floor .”

Elliott was meant to release her long-overdue seventh album that year but after merely one brilliant single, WTF( Where They From ), she returned to her quieter life as a novelist, producer and guest MC.” I detest to say I’m back because in reality I never ran nowhere ,” she insists.” I was still doing stuff behind the scenes. I don’t always want to be upfront. I’m so shy .” I suggest that anyone watching her fly through the air in an inflatable leather suit at the VMAs would not automatically diagnose her with shyness.” I was like that as a child ,” she says.” We would have family reunions and they always wanted me to get up on the table to perform. After an hour of them praying me, I would eventually get on the table and become this other little kid. Then they couldn’t get me off. Once I set foot on the stage, I block out everything. I can be in my own world .”

Melissa Elliott first constructed a private world as a child in Virginia. It was a fantastical refuge from a violent father, an abusive cousin and the grind of poverty; when reality fails you, construct your own. Behind her bedroom door, she was a star, practising adoption speeches in the mirror and performing to an audience of dolls.” The teacher would ask what everyone wanted to be and I said:’ I’m going to be a hotshot .’ And everyone in the class would chuckle. I wonder if those kids remember me to this day, because I remember everyone .”

In high school, Elliott formed an R& B group called Fayze, who later signed with the Swing Mob label under the name Sista and moved to New York. But Sista flopped and the Swing Mob crew dissolved, so Elliott didn’t reached her stride until she returned to her home state in 1995 with her best friend and producer Tim ” Timbaland ” Mosley.” Timbaland was more quiet than me and I’m super-shy so just imagine ,” she says.” He’s most definitely not like that now! Through him I satisfy Pharrell and we all bonded .”

Missy
Missy Elliott and producer Timbaland in 2004. Photograph: Jon Furniss/ WireImage

Avoiding the radio and MTV, the Virginians tunnelled deep into their imaginations to find genuinely new audios. Elliott describes one memorable day in Virginia Beach’s Master Sound studio:” I was in the booth doing The Rain[ her debut solo single] and I kept hearing:’ I dislike you so much right now !’ And I was like:’ Yo, who is screaming ?’ I’m getting so mad. And Pharrell comes knocking on the door and says:’ I want you to hear something .’ And he plays it and it’s Kelis. Me and Tim were like:’ Man, we wish we had done that record .’ That’s how we pushed each other .”

Missy ” Misdemeanor ” Elliott could do it all- sing, rap, write, make- but what she and Timbaland were doing was so far out that they needed to prove themselves, first by working on Aaliyah’s 1996 album One in a Million. It was the shape of R& B to come: radical yet irresistible. For her own The Rain( Supa Dupa Fly ), Elliott cooked up a joyfully bizarre video with director Hype Williams to let people know who they were dealing with.” It helped people understand the type of artist that I am: witty, with a fun, comical sense, but futuristic, too .” Suddenly, everybody wanted a piece of her.

Elliott recollects receiving calls from Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson in a single month.” It happened so fast that I’m just now getting a chance to sit back and re-evaluate everything ,” she says.” This year has allowed me to look back over my life and be like:’ Wow .'” When she watches the spectacular video for her 1999 single She’s a Bitch, in which she rises out of the ocean like a bald cyborg, she’s astonished.” I guess:’ Where was my mind at? What space was we in to create records like that ?’ So many moments I look back and wish that I knew what I was believe at the time .” Like a hip-hop Doctor Strange, Elliott was a reality-bender. On hittings such as Get Ur Freak On and Work It she made everything elastic- voice, rhythm, speech, body- until the usual regulations ceased to apply. Both avant-garde and platinum-popular, she revolutionised hip-hop and R& B while also wowing the likes of Thom Yorke, Damon Albarn and Bjork. Her videos with Hype Williams and Dave Meyers were no less game-changing than her records, each one a reinvention. She credits Elektra Records for running with her imagination.” Not once did they say:’ No, you can’t do this .’ I would bring stuff to them and they’d be like:’ Let’s do it .’ The only hour you get pushback is when they realise the budget is a million dollars .” She laughs.” Then they’re like:’ Wait a minute …'”

Simultaneously, she and Timbaland created startling makes for other artists, including Tweet, Melanie B and Destiny’s Child, featuring a 16 -year-old Beyonce.” It wasn’t that Beyonce came in and was loud or’ Look at me, I’m gonna be the superstar ,'” Elliott recollects.” She was very sweet. But when she went in the booth, that’s when I knew .” Beyonce later appeared on Elliott’s 2002 track Nothing Out There for Me.” I said:’ Hey, I want you to rap a little bit .’ And she was like:’ Miss, if I sound crazy, don’t set this out !’ And I said:” Trust me, B, I’m not gonna allow you to sound crazy .’ “Shes gone” in there and now she’s rapping better than me !”

In recent years, critics have emphasised the political impact of Elliott’s work. By radiating pleasure and freedom while upending expectations about race, gender and body image, she was an empowering figure, although she insists that was a byproduct rather than an agenda.” Never, ever once did I think of making a political statement. I did what I did. I didn’t know that it would become that for others later .” She enjoys it, though.” To know that it has been taken that style, I’m happy .”

Then, in 2005, Elliott effectively set her solo career on ice. What happened?” Well, I’m going to be honest, there were a lot of things ,” she says hesitantly. One was overwork. A stranger to holidays, she was always either working on her own music( six albums in eight years) or someone else’s.” I needed to refresh my intellect. Then I got sick, so that was another thing .” In 2008, after three years of chronic fatigue and drastic weight loss, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a thyroid ailment, and treated with radiation therapy. Even once she was able to resume recording, Elliott’s hiatus between albums became self-perpetuating: the longer she remained away, the harder it was to come back. Without deadlines or financial pressure( she invested wisely ), her perfectionism took over. She disappeared into the studio, racking up several albums’ worth of unreleased material.” You end up building up a trillion records ,” she says.” It’s easier for me to write for other people and not be as critical. I’m very difficult on myself. I’m like:’ Let me see if I can make something better ,’ so you only maintain powering on .”

The overwhelming, instant scrutiny of social media worsened this self-doubt. The beginning of this year, Cardi B tweeted about nervousnes and Elliottsympathised:” Many people deal with this … i am one … it’s real .” This wasn’t something that rappers discussed publicly in the 90 s.” Anxiety and depression, I’m not gonna lie, I rarely heard that back then ,” she says.” But now I hear it a lot. Before social media you really didn’t know what people thought of you but now it’s so in your face that I think it probably dedicates a lot of artists nervousnes. You have a lot of people coming at you, good or bad .” So she stuck to supporting roles on records by the likes of Ariana Grande, Janet Jackson, the Missy-indebted Lizzo and debut recording artist Michelle Obama: Elliott was the highlight of Obama’s 2016 charity single This Is for My Girls.” I wasn’t gonna say no. Y’know, it’s Michelle Obama. Am I actually gonna be like:’ Nah Michelle, I’m busy !’ She made me feel she was in my family. I almost forgot she was the First Lady .”

Now, eventually, Elliott is “most definitely” ready to take the plunge and release that album, self-doubt be damned.” This time the label is like:’ Knock it off, Missy Misdemeanor Elliott !’ Ha ha !”

The good news is that new music means live reveals. The bad news is that these might have to take the form of a Las Vegas residency because Elliott’s notions may be too ambitious to be portable.” It’s going to be a lot because there’s so much going in my mind ,” she says.” My mind is like a rollercoaster. It’s like an amusement park. Heh heh heh .” At long last, Missyland is reopening for business.

Missy Elliott’s Iconology EP is out now

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Melissa McCarthy’s Brilliant Response To Being Asked About Losing Weight

Melissa McCarthy, take a bow .

The funny actress recently did an interview with Refinery 29 where she discussed a whole host of things from her latest movie The Boss to her recent weight loss.

“I have( Lost weight ), but I’ll be back again. I’ll be up, I’ll be down, likely for the rest of my life. The thing is, if that is the most interesting thing about me, I need to go have a lavender farm in Minnesota and give this up.”

These are very true words. McCarthy’s appearance and weight is definitely not the most interesting thing about her. The actor, novelist and producer also has her own garment line. She went on to say.

There has to be something more. There are so many more intriguing things about women than their butt or their this or their that. It cant be the first issue every time, or a question at all.

Its like, Can you imagine them asking some of these guys I work with, How do you keep your butts appearing so good? It would be like, What the f* ck are you talking about? Why are you asking about the shape of my butt ?

Here’s the trailer to her new movie The Boss.

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Morbidly Obese Woman Loses Over Eight Stone( Naturally) In Just Nine Months

25 -year-old Kate Writer has become a viral sensation after dropping from a size 20 to a sizing 10( naturally, without any surgery) in only nine months .

Explaining to the Daily Mail that she had always been “on the chubby side” , but started to gain weight when she satisfied her boyfriend( now fiance) Nick, Kate said 😛 TAGEND

“Most days Id have a calorie laden energy drink and a chocolate bar for brekkie and then I would snack on lollies and chips all day .

After work, Id grab a Maccas on the way home then would settle in for a big home cooked snack when I got in .

Eventually my feet were swelling so much under the pressure of my weight that I was in so much ache, I couldnt even drive home. I knew enough was enough.”

While, at first, her weight gain hadn’t bothered her( “ w hen I did ultimately notice the extra weight was piling on, I didnt worry about it . Id just started going out and was drinking alcohol more regularly, having so much fun . My weight was the last thing on my mind” ), Kate realised that her sizing was starting to affect her health, and so decided to stimulate some drastic changes.

To begin with, she reduced her section sizing, and lost 8kg( merely over a stone) in only one week. She was astonished with the quick results 😛 TAGEND

“After that, I downloaded a calorie counting app and started tracking what I ate. Within a month, Id fallen below 100 kilograms . Realising how much Id been forgetting my body, I became hooked and soon I started taking on gruelling workout regime as well .

I wanted to lose weight naturally and I was determined to get a body that reflected the hard work I was putting in.”

Kate stopped existing exclusively on junk food, and began eating fresh veggies and lean meats instead. She rapidly fell in love with cross-fit, and- after only nine months- had shrunk down to a sizing 10. Discussing her impressive weight loss, Kate said 😛 TAGEND

“People watch my before and after photos and they automatically presume Ive had surgery, but I havent .

Im lucky because Im young and my body has bounced back but Ive put in a lot of hours in the gym.My weight have in fact gone up to 75 kilograms but its all the muscle Ive gained .

I still have my stretchmarks but Im not ashamed of them. I wear them with pride as they show just how far Ive come.I want to help inspire other women to change their routes and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.”

She’s now somewhat of an Instagram star, with 45 thousand adherents. You can check out her account here.

Image Credits: dedikated_lifestyle, Daily Mail

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Brave Girl Posts To Facebook To Remove Stigma Of “Invisible Illness”

The world seems to be more body-positive than ever these days. Everyone can appear how they want to is the general topic and that’s pretty awesome .

But whilst the main coverage is on plus-sized models fighting their corner for body equality, we don’t often watch a great deal about some illness that need to be addressed.

That’s whyAimee Rouski, 19, from Liverpool, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, decided to post this brave and heart-wrenching statement to Facebook…

Her aim was to raise awareness of the nasty cancer which causes inflammation and critical pain to the intestines. Aimee was dignosed back when she was 11 -years-old after she was subject to a number of stomach cramps, loss of appetite, a dangerous sum of weight loss and anal fissures.

Aimee was 15 when she was sent to hospital for seven months where she had three major surgeries. During these surgeries, her big intestine and colon were removed with muscles from her inner thigh being removed to cover the wounds.

She’s now had an overwhelming quantity of support with over 11,000 likes and 5,000 shares.

Here’s to you Aimee. You’re incredibly brave and you look great !

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Arcade Fire: Everything Now review- sixth-form irony to a disco beat

The fake reviews, shouty anti-consumerism and taunt promos may belie insecurity about their progressive new voice, but this album is often gorgeous

Last week, Arcade Fire took the unusual step of posting a fake review of their fifth album. On a webpage taunted up to look like US music blog Stereogum, the Canadian sextet attempted to second-guess the critical response to Everything Now: dance-influenced tracks will be compared favorably but somewhat dismissively to LCD Soundsystem; the album itself will eventually be evaluated as one of the best use of the year.

It was the latest stage in a promotional campaign that feels as if it has been going on for about 200 years, during which Arcade Fire have pretended to be in the utilize of a company called Everything Now Corp, which also manufactures fizzy beverages and energy bars and is aggressively marketing the band via ice-cream sponsorship deals and the placement of stories about them across the media. The taunt Stereogum review follows their online parodies of sport, traveling, film, music industry news and Goop-esque lifestyle websites: it can only be a matter of time before they do one poking fun at Angling Times.

It is intriguing, though not perhaps in the way Arcade Fire think it is. The suffocating noise of modern media, the similarity between the marketing of rock music and the marketing of household goods: from U2s PopMart tour to PC Music , these are impossibly well-worn topics. Why Arcade Fire have started making a satirical song and dance about them now is an interesting question. Perhaps it is something to do with prickliness about ultimately signing to a major label 16 years into their career. Or perhaps they are keen to prove they have a sense of humour. Arcade Fire have been hailed as many things, but are seldom an unceasing source of LOLs and ROFLs, although whether Everything Nows promotional campaign will do anything to change that is a moot point: none of it seems capable of inducing a reaction in a normal human being any more uproarious than a polite smile .

Still, the fake review seems perceptibly different to the rest of the Everything Now campaign , not least because a tone of tetchy defensiveness is impossible to miss. You can see why Arcade Fire might be concerned about their new albums reception. Their oeuvre since their 2004 debut Funeral has concentrated largely on remodelling its sturm und drang sound, variously shaping it into streamlined stadium boulder and a rackety homage to Scary Monsters-era Bowie. Everything Now abandons it almost entirely, although a hint remains amid the expansive electronics of its best track, We Dont Deserve Love.

Elsewhere, there is stylistic experimentation of varying degrees of success. At one extreme, Everything Now contains some genuinely fantastic music: the groggy electro-funk and falsetto vocals of Electric Blue, the audibly Abba-inspired Put Your Money on Me, the synthesised heartbeat and pure pop chorus of Creature Comforts. At the other, there is stuff that appears to be influenced by some of the least appealing music in history. The vocals on Signs of Life recall that unlovely point 35 years ago, where the novelty of hip-hops initial success left white boulder artists feeling impelled to demonstrate that they could rap, too. Chemistry, meanwhile, voices virtually wilfully horrible, like a mid-8 0s AOR band attempting to play reggae. Listening to it is an experience not unlike reading one of their fake news narratives about Win Butlers weight-loss regimen. You find yourself thinking: hang in, is this supposed to be funny?

Lyrically, the themes of the promotional campaign are frequently in evidence, which demonstrates a little bit wearying. The title way boasts one of the albums most addictive melodies, but theres no get around the fact that the points it is making are hackneyed: “theres been” people out there clapping their hands to their mouths and mumbling thank God someone has finally said this at its revelation that the smiles on Instagram are sometimes fake and that social media is no substitute for physical contact, but it is hard to imagine who. There are two 90 -second-long, jingle-like ways called Infinite Content , not a million miles removed from the joke ads that peppered the Whos Sell Out 50 years ago. In fairness to the Who , none of their ads were lumbered with terrible think-about-it-yeah? lyrics that resemble something you might hear at an amateur performance-poetry night: Infinite content, were infinitely content. It is better when it abandons sweeping statements and focuses on small details. The most affecting lyrics here might be the depictions of teen suicide bids on Creature Comforts: She told me she came so close/ filled up the bathtub and put on our first record.

We live in a musical era big on grand state-of-the-world addresses, from Kendrick Lamars To Pimp a Butterfly to Father John Mistys Pure Comedy. You can see why Arcade Fire would want to do something similar: they are a band that prosper on grandiose artistic statements, whether thats geo-personalised music videos or writing fascist-inspired national anthems for The Hunger Games. But in their haste to join in, they seem to have neglected to check whether they have anything original or interesting to say about the state of the world. The fact that its laudable desire to experiment musically doesnt always come off isnt enough to make Everything Now a bad album there are songs worth hearing and genuinely thrilling music here but rather a flawed one.

Read more: www.theguardian.com