Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10/02/10: Contributor to Running In Heel's Web Love feature

For the first time, we’d like to share the strange, funny, amazing, inspirational sites we’re loving on the web this month.


I love this website. Toy-A-Day has been around since 2008 and its creator, Joe Chiang, initially planned to make and post a paper toy every day for a year. However, two and a half years on he’s still working away on the site so whilst it may have not gone according to plan, that’s definitely a good thing! Toys featured range from The Beatles, to Jay and Silent Bob to Barack Obama and everything in between. The toy is designed on a PDF which you print out and construct. Even if you haven’t got the patience to make one (and I admit I’ve only tried once) it’s still adorable to look at!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

8/2/10: Cinematic CV: Penelope Cruz

Fresh from the announcement of her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Nine, Running in Heels examines Penelope Cruz’s cinematic CV to date

First major films: Jamón Jamón and Belle Epoque.
Most recent released film: Nine.
Films awaiting release: Cameo in Sex in the City 2.
Significant acting awards to date:
  • Oscars: Winner of Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona and three nominations to date (Best Actress for Volver, Best Supporting Actress for both Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Nine).
  • Goyas (Spanish Academy Awards): Winner of three Goya’s (Best Actress for The Girl of Your Dreams and Volver; Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
Cruz in latest film 'Nine'

With her third Oscar nomination announced at the beginning of February, Penelope Cruz is now acknowledged as a great actress on the world stage. But it hasn’t always been this way. Until recent years, Penelope lived an extremely schizophrenic cinematic life being feted in Spain for her talent yet appearing in lacklustre Hollywood movies as the token eye candy. From the dreadful Woman on Top to the Oscars via many excellent Spanish films and three Goyas (Spanish Academy awards), we take a look at Cruz’s cinematic CV.

Early Work in Spanish Cinema

Cruz in her début role in 'Jamón Jamón'

Cruz’s first significant breakthrough was in the starring role of Jamón Jamón (A Tale of Ham and Passion) in 1992. A number of films followed including her acclaimed performance in Belle Époque which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1994.

However two things happened in 1997 which were to catapult her to stardom within her native country. Firstly, she had her big break in Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar’s film Abre los Ojos (Open your eyes). Then, following her small role as a prostitute giving birth on a bus in Pedro Almodóvar’s Live Flesh (Carne Trémula) in 1997, she became his muse and in the years that followed appeared in many of his films.

Her most notable role in the Almodovar oeuvre prior to her foray into Hollywood is arguably All About my Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre) for which the director won an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1999. Cruz was feted for her performance in the movie and this, her second appearance in an Oscar winning movie, allowed her to launch her career in Hollywood.

Hollywood Calling!

Despite the burgeoning industry acclaim, Cruz was still relatively unknown to the public outside of Spain. Her Hollywood career began with a role in Hi-Lo Country, followed a role in the questionable Woman on Top (I know, this is the second time I’ve mentioned it, but it really is that bad). However, 2000 was to signal the start of Cruz’s upward trajectory in Hollywood. With parts in All the Pretty Horses, Blow, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, her star was on the rise. This was inevitably accelerated following her performance in Vanilla Sky – the English language remake of Abre los Ojos – when it came to light that she was dating co-star Tom Cruise.

Regrettably, this relationship with the recently divorced Cruise seemed to stunt her progress in Hollywood as an actress, thrusting her into a relentless tabloid furore – Cruise divorces Kidman, begins dating Cruz during proceedings, Cruz begins appearing in People magazine’s annual Most Beautiful People list, Cruise and Cruz break up…

CV schizophrenia sets in

Yet despite this, her European cinema career was still flourishing as she returned to Europe to learn Italian and star in Italian film Non ti muovere (Don’t Move) in 2004. This was another resounding European success for which she won both the David di Donatello (equivalent of Academy Award in Italy) and European Film Award for Best Actress. Yet, following this success, Cruz returned to Hollywood and starred alongside Matthew McConaughey in Sahara. She also began dating McConaughey and seemed to cement her place in the public eye as eye candy in English language films and hot girlfriend to her leading men.

Worldwide Acclaim

Thankfully, following a break up from McConaughey, Cruz returned to her roots and appeared in 2006’s Volver, reigniting the partnership with Almodóvar. The movie was a resounding success worldwide and Cruz was the first Spanish actress to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. Unfortunately she lost out to Judi Dench but did win a Goya for the role in Spain.

This Oscar nomination finally signalled Cruz’s entry into the Hollywood big-time.

Cruz with her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'

She filmed Vicky Cristina Barcelona with Woody Allen (acting her American counterparts in the film off the screen) and took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2009, not to mention Javier Bardem. Her Hollywood status was cemented with a third Oscar nomination for the 2010 Oscars in the Best Supporting Actress category once more, for her role as Daniel Day Lewis’ Italian mistress in Nine.

Her chances of winning are uncertain, given that she lost out on a Golden Globe for the role, but Cruz is now a star both in Hollywood and Spain, something the Spanish will never forget about their beloved ‘Pe’.

8/2/10: Where are the Plus Size Men?

There’s been a furore over plus size female models, but what about plus size men? Have they been overlooked or are men just generally more accepted at a larger size?

The furore over the use of unrealistically sized female models is gradually abating as women are being represented in the fashion world in a more relatable way, which takes into account that there are more sizes than zero. For females, a plus size is usually anything over a UK size 18. Whilst the fashions worlds’ view of a plus size female is still slightly skewed they have at least taken steps towards altering the size and shape of females that they present to us. Please note the use of the word skewed though, as in the modelling world a plus size model is more likely to be represented by a size 14 model than an actual plus size model.

Nevertheless, these steps together with the continuing championing of a larger female size in the media, means that plus size females are no longer airbrushed out by the fashion or media industries. For evidence of the changes that have been wrought, look no further than V Magazines’ January 2010 ‘Size Issue’ with shots such as this one illustrating the mindset that big is beautiful too.

V Magazine's 'Size issue'

There’s no doubt that the media and fashion are now championing the plus size female cause. But what about the plus size men? A plus size man is generally defined as anyone over a size UK XL. The issue of the plus size man and how he is depicted in the media and fashion has not been raised in any significant way to date. A quick Google search yields none of the debate associated with plus size women so what does this mean? Have men been forgotten about? Or are men simply more accepted at a larger size?

Are men accepted at a larger size?

Men‘s size is not seen in such simplistic terms as women’s size. Until now women have been led to believe often believe that the size they need to be is the smallest size possible because the images that have been presented to them. However the majority of men do not have this fat / thin mentality. It would seem that being a plus size man does not carry as much stigma as being a plus size woman.

The reason there is less stigma attached to being a plus size man is that men are presented a different body ideal to live up to. This can be seen in the precedence of body shape over body size in the images presented of men. Although the body shape presented on the catwalks in usually quite thin, the ideal male body presented to us is not necessarily thin.

However whilst men may be seen as acceptable at a larger size, this too is limited to a certain sort of shape. Which is why you don’t see Kellogg’s promoting a ‘Little Red Suit’ challenge, but you do see stacks of health supplements calling to men from health shop windows touting promises like muscle gain.

However, the lack of plus sized men is not limited to the fashion industry, its spreads right across many different areas – two of which, advertising and entertainment, demonstrate that whilst men’s bodies may not be the subject of the intense scrutiny women are subject to, this is not necessarily a good thingfrom the perspective of making the fashion industry even more inclusive.

The Advertising Industry

A svelte Calvin Klein model

Plus size men are rarely seen in advertising. The way men are portrayed in advertising, as with women, has nothing to do with reality but rather the message advertisers are trying to put across and who they are trying to put it across to. So for example, L’Oreal Paris used Pierce Brosnan as the spokesperson for their male grooming range as he appeals to women and their husbands who want to be him. Ditto David Beckham and the Armani underwear ads. Plus sized men can be seen selling plus sized clothes in clothing catalogues but apart from that advertising, as always, perpetuates an image that is little reflection of reality.

Men on Screen

The entertainment industry is a good example of how larger men are depicted in the media. Men and women, for better or worse, are not portrayed the same way. In the media and films and many other areas of life, women’s appearance and size has always been focused on more.

The storyline of Shallow Hal was incredible to many because the plus size woman was considered to be beautiful by one man, albeit under the influence of hypnosis. However, the beautiful Katherine Heigl falling for a pudgy Seth Rogen in Knocked Up barely raised an eyebrow.

Heigl and Rogen in Knocked Up

So, plus size male models are inevitable?

The fact that men’s appearance is not as discussed a topic means that plus size men are becoming more and more marginalised by the fashion industry. The fat / thin stigma is the root of the plus size female model controversy and led to the subsequent acceptance of larger female sizes by the fashion industry. However, just because plus size men are not as stigmatised as plus size women, this does not mean they are any less marginalised.

Men have been overlooked because they haven’t demanded to be taken into account, and these industries aren’t going to automatically include them. The achievement of a plus size female model industry followed a battle hard fought and it will be the same for plus size men should they decide to take up the fight

8/02/10: Contributor to Running in Heels 'That Moment' Playlist

Whether it’s love past, present or future – this is a collection of special, private tracks that make us believe in love, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment.

Get You Good – Jon Justice Band (

Whilst I may be biased as I know these guys, this is the most perfect song. Everything about the sound is just so sexy, from the saxophone playing to Jon’s amazing voice. An ode to a night in together, this is the ideal background music for when you’re in the moment.