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As some of you might already know, I wrote an article entitled The Beauty Blogosphere in the September/October issue of Anokhi Magazine, the awesome South Asian publication that I just recently joined as Junior Beauty Editor.

When the Beauty Editor, my boss Denise Wild (also the founder of The Sewing Studio and Love Sewing Magazine), assigned the article she advised me on the importance of balancing South Asian Beauty bloggers with mainstream beauty blogs that had a strong presence online. Together the two of us decided I should interview Janine Falcon, founder of Beautygeeks.

Being a South Asian woman I still find Beautygeeks a really informative, engaging and fun read.  After all, you don’t have to be South Asian to be featured in a South Asian mag or blog, you just need to be informative to the audience in  question!  Janine was a pleasure to interview for the article and she was also happy to help me out with this post.

Check out my Q&A with Janine!

As a former magazine editor for Canadian Living and Homemakers what made you start thinking about getting on the online blogging bandwagon?

I never thought of blogging as a bandwagon I was hopping onto. At the time beauty blogging was relatively new in Canada. I know, it’s weird to give it geographical boundaries, but at the time there was only a handful of Canadian-run sites who had established themselves (Lipstick Powder n Paint, Canadian Beauty and Sugar Shock Beauty). I knew only of Lipstick Powder n Paint, but I’d read a little about the growing blog pool in the US.

That said, what really drew me to the blogosphere was how much fun I’d been having doing quirky status updates on Facebook, back when the update format forced users to work around an “is” construct, as in, “JANINE FALCON is….” The challenge to write something complete and amusing within that construct was irresistible for me. It also made the idea of blogging relevant to me — stat updates are mini blogs.

What is a beauty geek? Where did the idea of beauty geeks originate?

I’ve referred to myself as a beauty geek for years. I’ve always been a geek for all kinds of details, from application techniques to ingredients to how some products are uncannily similar to how others are unique. I’m interested in the stuff about beauty that make other folks’ eyes glaze over. Most beauty editors with a passion for their work are like that.

In 2009 P&G awarded you with the best beauty blog, describe that experience and how it might have made a difference for you as a beauty blogger and beauty expert.

I have to clarify that in fact the award was given by a panel of industry judges unaffiliated with P&G. The company’s name is on the plaque, but they don’t make the decision on who gets one. That’s important to note because a prize is worthless if it appears to be in exchange for some kind of payoff.

Winning a P&G Beauty Award for Best Fashion or Beauty Blog was a huge surprise. I was in very good finalist company. Second, it was a huge surprise! The thing about doing your own thing is that you have to trust your own instincts every step of the way — there is no boss to tell you you’re doing well or to give you an encouraging raise. You work really hard 24/7 and hope you’re hitting the mark at least most of the time, fingers crossed. Taking home an award given by a team of industry experts, most of whom you don’t know, have never met, is brilliant encouragement not only to keep doing what you’re doing, but in fact to do it better and better. (No pressure.)

From the other side of the computer screen, I think the award boosted BeautyGeeks’ credibility. After all, specifics regarding who bestowed it aside, an award from a juggernaut industry leader is a sign that says “Hey, we take this seriously. Just sayin’.”

What credentials or knowledge do you have to be writing about beauty and to be a beauty authority online?

I’ll tell you what I generally look for from the sources I trust, whether online, in print or in conversation:

1) Critical thinking.

I need to know the person sharing information is thinking for herself, truly evaluating something on its actual merits and even doing a bit of research rather than blindly accepting or regurgitating whatever the press material says or endorsing it because a) she got it for free and/or b) it’s pretty.

2) Context.

There can be no real evaluation of something if you don’t know what came before it and what else out there might be similar (or exactly the same). Take waterproof mascara. We all know it’s been around for ages. So how much value would you place on a review from a person who thinks the new release she just tried is the first waterproof mascara ever and is therefore groundbreaking beauty technology? Context.

3) Access to credible experts.

Where’s your information coming from? If you’re getting quotes on acne treatment from a doctor known for her research and knowledge on the subject, great. If you’re getting the information from BuyCheapZitStuffHere.com, not so much.

4) A good handle on the language.

I’m a beauty geek, yes, but I’ve been a grammar geek for much longer. Competent writing skills are key to getting a point across clearly and correctly. I can handle errors such as “it’s” in place of “its,” “your” instead of “you’re,” and “alot” instead of “a lot” a bit better now thanks to the very funny hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com. But such mistakes, as well as repeated misspellings and faulty punctuation, are still rather an insurmountable turn off. Not for everyone, but definitely for me.

How have your previous experiences as a magazine style editor and makeup artist helped you in running your website?

As an editor, I became familiar with the industry, learned how to produce stories, met key sources of expert information, made valuable contacts and absorbed a huge amount of beauty-related information I would not have had access to otherwise. I also made wonderful friends who have offered unwavering support — that’s so important. My experience as a makeup artist fuels my interest in cosmetics and techniques gleaned from the talented artists I’ve met and continue to meet.

If you had one piece of advice for other beauty bloggers still making their name online out there what would it be?

Be real.

As a beauty blogger what kind of impact do you think bloggers are making in the beauty industry for consumers and average women?

The same as a friend who shares your beauty loves and challenges. She has an opinion and advice you can appreciate.

Name one of the most satisfying aspects of being a beauty blogger that motivates you  to keep imabeautygeek.com going when you are going through a stressful time.  

 

Well, it’s fun!

What is the most memorable story in relation to your experience as a beauty blogger or a specific post you’ve done that you would like to share?  It can be about a specific interview you did, a challenge you overcame, or a post that caused a lot of discussion etc.

Honestly it’s the dorkiest thing. I had an opportunity to interview Chris Noth and take a buddy photo with him. A number of people commented that they were to Photoshop themselves into the image in my place. I thought that was a great idea, so I turned it into a contest and had readers vote on their favourite “Photoshop yourself with Chris Noth” entry. See? Fun!

What does beauty mean for Janine Falcon?

Confidence.

As a young girl, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?

A grown-up.

Who has been a role model or mentor in your life that has motivated you to become the Janine Falcon you are today?

I don’t think I should blame anyone for that. *grin*

PSSST, if you liked this post, you may want to check out my feature article in Anokhi’s September Fashion and Style Issue. Read it online, or better yet buy a print copy and check out my beauty trend report featuring some of the hottest beauty looks from the fall runways.

This is what is looks like, for easy finding on the newsstand!

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER ANOKHI MAGAZINE - hot cover eh?

Cultural beauty is seen at its best when you learn about rituals, belief systems, clothing, food and the history of a group of peoples. But the wacky side usually comes out when you look into the superstitions of a culture (no offence intended, after all I am Punjabi I can make fun of myself right?). Born and raised into a Sikh Punjabi family, I’ve had my share of “OMG are you for real?” moments when a random auntie, or better yet, my mom informs me of things I should or should not do, simply because somewhere back in the day someone decided it was bad luck.

The irony of most superstitious beliefs is that they often go hand in hand with some religious beliefs. Although I don’t believe this, some atheists or opponents of organized religion view a belief in a higher power as a mere “superstition” that provides humanity with a false reason to justify their being. My opinion: God is a big deal and since I’ve been raised in a Sikh family the religion actually provides me with meaning and explanation for most things in life, but of course others can think as they feel.

A majority of superstitious beliefs were created in order to fight a societal fear or powerful group within a community that the leaders in question wanted to keep in check. For example, in the Victorian period widowed women were deemed as outcasts in English society and in some accused of being witches. Once their husband passed on she became financially in charge of his estate, finances and property. These newly independent women caused  much anxiety for the patriarchal legal system, often resulting in these women being ostracized by those in power.

But on a more light-hearted side, I also just think a lot of fed-up mom’s with undisciplined children created these sayings in order to crack the whip and discipline their children from misbehaving.

A classic example of my second hypothesis that I was told as a child by my grandmother:

“Don’t rattle your keys at night, its brings negative energy in the home!”

This was usually told to me as a child as my grandmother had a look on her face that I was clearly disturbing the higher spiritual order and risking harm to my personal safety with my key jingling.

My translation: “My child is being a pain and keeps jingling keys, while people are trying to relax and sleep, so yes I am going to instil some good old fear into her.” Okay I know this is a bit extreme, especially because I was one of the favourite grandchildren to my Nanni, but I am thinking of a really disgruntled and exhausted mother who just wants to go to bed.

Women as community leaders and creator’s of belief systems

All of this has led me to come to the conclusion that the ancestry of women is really important to the identity of a cultural group, because no matter how outlandish a superstition appears to someone (either a member of the group like myself, or a cultural outsider) at the end of the day, those superstitions become a part of a larger belief system that governs the rituals, special occasions, and important moments of an individual person’s life. And lets face it they are called “old wives tales” for a reason, women are a source of wisdom, authority and oral history in most cultural groups.

SAS’s List of Punjabi Superstitions

That being said, here are some superstitions I’ve grown up with; some outlandish, some beautiful and some that I stand by myself:

  1. A black crow outside your house means you will be getting guests to your home.
  2. Don’t wear white on happy celebrations. White in South Asian culture is worn at funerals and is symbolic of mourning.

  3. If you are a woman and your right eye flickers, it’s a bad omen. For men, the left eye means bad things are coming your way.
  4. Don’t step on books, they are sources of knowledge and givers of wisdom, so they should be respected and cherished.
  5. Don’t play with money. In the Sikh religion gambling is also considered a taboo.
  6. Don’t sweep the floor or do the laundry on the same day after a happy occasion in your home. You’re sweeping away your joys by doing so. Enjoy the moment.
  7. “Achoo.” You just sneezed, now you can’t leave the house right away, it’s a bad omen!

Do you have any cultural superstitions to share? I’d love to hear about them and your thoughts on them, is the belief you shared ridiculous or simply another representative of cultural beauty?

How not to look like a washed out hippy when you grow-out your hair

Recently I wrote an article for 29secrets.com on tips for growing out your hair.  I was honoured to interview celebrity stylist  Stuart Phillips from the UK. With over 15 years of experience, Phillips has styled hair for big names in the entertainment business including Ivana Trump, Serena Williams, Jean Christophe Novelli, Suzanne Shaw, David Hasslehoff, Ana Ivanovic and Jean Claude Van Dam!

The idea for the article came from my own personal experience (or shall I say struggle!) with growing out my hair for my wedding, which takes place this September! After struggling with anti-frizz treatments during the humid weather this summer in Toronto and experimenting with time saving hairstyles, this topic really interested me.

So for all of you ladies thinking about growing out your locks, here are some tips from an expert in the beauty biz before you decide!

ENJOY!

So most of you know that I am currently planning my wedding with my fiance, keeping that in mind I was inspired to write this article for 29Secrets.com where I discuss the main factors a woman should consider before she says yes to her long-term love when he pop’s the question. This one is dedicated to my one and only, soon-to-be husband Raj.

Check out my article “Is He Marriage Material” on 29Secrets.com, who knows maybe it will help make you realize your current man is really THE ONE.

In June I had an awesome beach vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico at the Riu Palace Pacifico.

Here are the must have items that I think any girl or woman should pack when heading south for some sun!

1. Vichy’s Capital Soleil Sunscreen Cream SPG 60 with Mexoryl XL and other sunscreen filters. Although some darker skin beauties may believe they don’t need sunscreen, the higher levels of Melanin in brown and black skin mean we are more susceptible to hyperpigmentation from sun damage. Vichy’s SPF 60 helped me get the right amount of colour and didn’t feel greasy on my skin.

2. My awesome HUGE grey-blue sun hat that I scored for only $16.99 at Winners, get a true hollywood glam beach look with a hat like this, oversized shades and a floral one-peice bathing suit with a cutout back and roushing on the sides. Add on short frilly skirt for when you are out of the water or grabbing some lunch for a complete look!

3. Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility: A great beach read is always key for the days you don’t feel like being active on the beach or in the pool. This classic girl-book by Austen was just the thing I needed on the beach since the waves in the Pacific were too intense for me to swim in the ocean!

4. Dior’s Sunset Cafe Palette 440: For obvious reasons I don’t wear makeup during the day on beach vacations, but for dinner and evenings out a warm and neutral palette complements your new tan. This 5 colour eyeshadow palette by DIOR allows you to create more playful sun kissed looks or bolder dark eyes because of the mix of gold, deep browns, and shimmery pinks.

Well those are my must haves for your next beach vacation!

As a magazine, beauty and fashion  junkie, one of the biggest criticisms I have of mainstream magazines is the lack of representation of diversity. As a teen I read a lot of  Seventeen, YM and a few other magazines but I had difficulty relating to the women and girls featured on the covers and within the ads. They just didn’t look like me. Our skin colour was different and frankly, I felt excluded. I remember thinking when looking at the covers each month, “I wonder what it would be like if a brown girl was on the cover…that would never happen though!”

To make it clear though, magazine editors and creative directors aren’t trying to portray only one type of woman, or interpreting beauty intentionally in a narrow way. In fact Editor-in-Chief of Anokhi, Hina Ansari, said it best  in the current Entertainment Issue of Anokhi:

“Unfortunately, there is a dearth of actual South Asian models in this industry…the “East Indian” (South Asian)look you refer to  does vary from country to country and region to region in the wonderful mosaic of complexions and features,” (page 8 Anokhi Hears You! ANOKHI July/August 2008 Entertainment Issue).

Hina Ansari raises a valid point, there just aren’t enough South Asian models out there to go around! Plus, most people expect a certain kind of South Asian woman to be portrayed. Yet the label “South Asian” covers a big part of the world including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the list goes on.  So we cannot expect every South Asian model to sport  a saree, or have that stereotypical Bollywood, East Indian appearance in features. Rather, I think the true diversity of the South Asian woman needs to be brought out better in both South Asian publications and within mainstream media. The complexities of our heritage will only be understood if an effort is made to show that South Asian does not equal India!

One amazing South Asian  model who has hit it BIG, who doesn’t fall in that preconceived East Indian look and broke the boundaries for many future South Asian models, is LAKSHMI MENON. Lakshmi Menon is a 27 year-old Bengali bombshell, who was first seen on the runway shows of Jean Paul Gautier and Hermes in 2006. Since then she has been the face of Swatch watches, H&M and Givenchy and appeared in the pages of prestigious magazine brands including Elle India, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Allure.

She’s hot STUFF, see for yourself! Here’s Lakshmi on the cover of Elle India April 2010:

Plus, she’s a role model for all aspiring South Asian models as Menon’s increasing presence in the mainstream fashion industry reaffirms that the world of fashion has room for women of all race and colour.

Check out Lakshmi Menon’s thoughts on her career in this article from New York Magazine from last year.

Now go ahead and suggest my girl crush post to the dudes in your life,  BUT not before you check out my  Annabelle and Marcelle Beauty Giveaway Contest!

So I know its been a while since I have posted consistently, to my faithful readers I am sincerely sorry, but a lot has been going on these past few weeks!

Here’s what’s been keeping me busy:

1. I finished my internship at Totem with CAA Magazine at the beginning of June and I officially GRADUATED from the Centennial College Book and Magazine Publishing Program.

2. I landed an awesome part-time internship at 29SECRETS.com with Editor Jill Dunn who has worked for Elle Canada and Glow. Located in Toronto’s fashion district, at 29Secrets I’ll be helping out with updating and writing beauty, fashion, wellness and relationships content for the site!

3. My boss, Beauty Editor Denise Wild at my ongoing internship at Anokhi has also been keeping me busy. Early June, I worked on a beauty photo shoot for the upcoming Fall issue where I finally got to meet Anokhi’s Editor-in-Chief Hina Ansari -a vibrant and intelligent woman- and have been interviewing some wonderful DESI BEAUTY MAVENS for some copy that will appear in the Anokhi issue that drops in September!

4. My fiance and I have been busy planning the details of our south-asian wedding—from sending out invites and finalising our last few vendors. In the next couple of months be sure to stay tuned for details of the most awesome and professional SOUTH ASIAN WEDDING VENDORS in the business that we are using this September!

5. All last week I soaked up the SUN in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my family for our annual family vacation, We stayed at the RIU PALACE PACIFICO, a beautiful property with great food, drinks and entertainment.

So basically its been a really crazy month! But in all this time I’ve had a lot of time to think up of great new things to share with all of you. So stay tuned for great beauty product reviews, South Asian – Punjabi wedding info, cultural musings, and my first official blog contest over the next few weeks. As always I will continue to blog about anything South Asian that interests me and my readers so read on and let me know your thoughts!

Follow me on Twitter @PreetsD

In the last  4 months I’ve been finishing up course work for my publishing certificate, attending vendor appointments with my fiance for our wedding in the Fall, and interning at two magazines. Basically I spend a lot of my time  on public transportation – whether it’s a municipal bus, subway, TTC streetcar or the GO Train -to get around.  During all of my time  on the road when I am not taking a cat nap to catch up on sleep, I’ve been reading.

Finding the right book or article for commuting is important:

The book needs to be simple enough so that you can sometimes only read  3 pages while  on a short bus ride, but also engaging enough to motivate you to keep the pages turning when on route in the early morning (as early as  6:45 am this past Winter when I commuted out to the Danforth area of Toronto for class!) or  after a long work day.

Sometimes it also helps if the book is big enough so you can hide from the crazies on the TTC!

So I thought I’d share with you the written word that has managed to win over my desire to just use my commutes as nap time:

1. Chantel Simmon’s LOVE STRUCK talks about the complexities of marriage, the need for communication between partners and takes a humourous and whimsical look at what can happen to a married woman when she confronts her deepest fear, infidelity.

2. Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry: Completely unique from The Time Traveller’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry is deeply evocative, gothic and outright troubling. Niffenegger’s novel, which I just finished last Friday, challenges what we understand as reality, spirituality, love, and death.

3. Jhumpha Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth: I can’t even put into words how much I loved this collection of short stories. Lahiri unearths the darkest of humankind’s moments in her painfully real fiction. Fine, you may not want to read this book on a Debbie downer morning, but if you want to be moved by the complexities of issues such as inter-racial marriages, alcoholism, and unrequited love then Unaccustomed Earth is your answer.

4. Anokhi Magazine : Articles in past issues that  drew my attention –  the March/April Kajol cover story , the article on marriage in South Asian culture called  Great Expectations, and the controversial feature on the swinger’s lifestyle in the May/ June Wedding issue. I especially recommend you to read the article on the swinger’s lifestyle, I love an article that causes discussion, shock, and mixed emotions. If you read it let me know what you think!

5. Fashion Magazine really made me appreciate beauty and fashion features. The farewell profile on Alexander McQueen was amazing and I also liked the article in the May issue about the trend of  Canadian designers collaborating with accessible brands, such as H&M or Joe Fresh.

Do you think international names like Jimmy Choo  and Stella McCartney lose their esteem if they collaborate with chains such as Target or Adidas? When and where do we draw the line between fashion and business?

6.  Toronto Life: The features in  TL never  cease to amaze me. I particularly enjoyed the TTC feature in the May issue because yes,  I also loathe the overcrowded situation at Yonge and Bloor and the ridiculous fare hike put into place in January!

Book’s I loved, but found difficult to read on a commute:

Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native: The book is characterized by amazing writing, language and poetic devices. Plus, Hardy discusses so many controversial issues at such a ground breaking time in history  (the 19th century), but the flow of my reading was disturbed by the constant yammering of  people on the train. Also, the subway cart sounding to a halt at each  stop took away from the luxurious experience Hardy deserves:  a comfortable read of the novel before bed, or on a lounger in my backyard.

Sometimes literature is too luxurious and precious to deal with the invasive honking of car horns and musty subway smells.

For those of you who haven’t already heard, Mani Amar, activist and film maker from B.C. reached a breakthrough in raising awareness about gang violence in the South Asian community in Vancouver and across Canada this week!

His award-winning documentary (2009 International Sikh Film Festival in New York), Warrior’s Religion, is now officially out on DVD and available for purchase  on the official website. 

By spending only $15 on the DVD you will support a noble cause, Amar’s fight to create a safer community for future South Asians and youth of other ethnicities living in the Vancouver mainland.

On the other hand if you are an educator or a leader among social justice organizations for young people, a double disc version with discussion materials for only $25 is also available.

Although A Warrior’s Religion has received criticism from Sikh community leaders because of their misconception of the title, since the young men depicted in the film mostly belong to the Sikh faith group, the film’s name is a metaphor for the lifestyle of these gangsters who see their lives in street gangs as their way of life, salvation and thus therefore “religion.”

Since the problem of gang warfare runs deep among young men whose families are of Sikh faith, Amar’s film raises awareness for this community in hopes of preventing future generations’ deaths. The unbiased documentary includes heartbreaking interviews of parents grieving for the tragic deaths of their young sons, to tense conversations between Amar and former gangster Bal Bhuttar.

The documentary took a total of three years to research and produce for the young Amar, which he funded by working three jobs. A dedicated activist, Amar was determined to see through his goal of producing his film to bring this issue into discussion among community leaders, youth members, educators and like-minded social justice seekers.

I already bought my copy of the documentary, it’s on its way in the mail as I type, stay tuned for my review of the documentary. In the mean time watch the official trailer A Warrior’s religion at Mani’s official website now and make your purchase.

Meanwhile, what’s Mani Amar doing now: currently he is working on his first official feature film, which he envisioned while putting together the research for his documentary. Topics covered include gang violence and sexual violence against women.

Good luck in all of your future endeavours Mani and thank you for serving our community with your hard work and efforts.

So if you haven’t already heard On the Danforth Magazine is official out…try to pick up a FREE copy at local Danforth businesses and you can check out awesome articles by great writers on topics such as: roller derby (Jen Brooks), tattooing (Heather Holditch), reviews of Michael Byrson’s book The Lizard (Jacqulyn Bester), a Staycation in Toronto’s Beaches (Erin Haggett), couch potato workouts (Karen Stevens), pet businesses on the Danforth (Teresa Morgado), a profile of the infamous hot sauce store Taste the 4th Sense (Marisa Baratta), summer skin care (Shazia Khan) and much more!

I also wrote a short piece on Summer Makeup Tips and had the pleasure of interviewing the talented makeup artist Monica Kalra! Her work is amazing, but you’ll have to pick up the mag to find out her tips for the upcoming summer season!

If you like how the Roller Derby issue looks then thank our Creative Director Edward Kanerva, also the creator of the Innappropriate Cupcake cartoons which can be found on his blog, and our lovely graphic designers…kudos to  Justine Pahal. Finally, thanks to our web editor Maureen Lau whose still trucking away on the e-mag!

Cheers to my Centennial Book and Magazine Publishing colleagues – its been a fabulous year! The world of publishing awaits us and as some of us (not me) finish our internships tomorrow and  move on to the real world in search of  jobs in both the magazine and book industry, I dedicate this song to you called “THIS WILL BE OUR YEAR” -Let’s hope it is!

You’ve all been amazing and I feel fortunate and grateful to have met you, I know I’ve met some lifelong friends (you know who you are!) and I feel honoured to be working in the same industry as some you.   Amidst the slew of assignments, crazy 8:30 am classes, and all of the fun times we’ve had helping out at events in the  publishing industry its been a blast.

A special thanks goes out to Denise Schon, our team leader and program director at Centennial, and Chantel Simmons an engaging and uber-in-the-know former magazine editor and author of LOVE STRUCK (great book you should read it if you haven’t already)!