Friday, July 27, 2012

Style Maven: Russell Brand

Lately in America, for the past few years we have seen a surge in British talent making their way into the American entertainment market (i.e. Jessie J, Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora). Even America’s Next Top Model this past season was dedicated toward promoting this trend where the competition was not just individually competitive, but it was between a team of US models, and a team of UK models. This shift really speaks for the proliferation of globalization. In my fashion, 2008 is when we could see this trend really start to gain headway as MTV introduced us to this curiously androgynous Brit by the name of, Russell Brand, who hosted the Video Music Awards for the first time; I remember the night well. My friend had collected me from my dorm and we headed to a friend’s place for a dinner party where we all together had dropped jaws watching this unfamiliar zealous personality of a man who was seemingly bashing American culture going as far as lauding the, at the time, more than beloved Jonas Brothers, as well as, George Bush, referring to our President as that 'retarded cowboy feller' (his logic to his jokes can be explained in this article from reporter Miranda Sawyer of “The Observer” ). While some of our reactions to his jokes were at first astonished disbelief to the audacity of his comments on American entertainment, albeit on such a global platform, by the time I left my friends house that night I felt a spark of admiration for the ultra skinny pants sporting, grungy hair rocking, wildly sexual bloke, and I knew we weren’t done seeing more of him, hence the below recent interview…

I think what I saw in him that gave me such inkling to his pending success is that he was such a great example of “true” Acceptance. I didn’t particularly think exactly this when I first saw him in 2008, but since being exposed more and more to his personality through interviews such as the one above with Chelsea Handler, other media coverage (especially during his marriage to pop pixie, Katy Perry), books, comic DVDs, and blockbuster movies (most notably, Get Him To the Greek and Arthur), Russell Brand has shown that aside from his zany personality, he is actually quite conceptual about life, and how he wants to live his life. We will be in for more of his antics with his new show, “Brand X” , which debuted this June on the FX network this fall. From the article I mentioned above (which throughout this post I have boxed excerpts from) I can believe Sawyer who that November after the VMA’s stated in her interview with him, Russell's confidence comes from knowing himself inside out.” The way he conducts himself is essentially natural, and for him to have to, as he says, "inhibit what is spontaneous and good about [his] performance," would certainly be a travesty on the part of a judgmental and fickle society. His inhibitions stands to reason that life is all about acknowledging how we really feel and it’s about accepting life for what it is, whether it is good or bad. In my fashion, once you have a firm grip on the “true” feelings of those around you, one can think of the things to say, and do, which will help others to understand what perspectives your opinions come from. His concept of life, explained in Sawyer’s well profiled interview, show that the societal mindset of our culture can actually benefit from his logic on the treatment of people.

There's an incident in his autobiography where an elderly neighbor, clearly trying to look after this strange little boy, spends time with Russell in his garden before nipping into his house. 'Don't stamp on the flowers,' he says before he goes in. Russell stamps on the flowers and the neighbor never talks to him again. I bring this up.

'Yes, if love comes with some kind of cost, I'll take loneliness!' he laughs. 'I wonder why I would do a thing like that, and I imagine it must have been because I didn't really feel stable or happy or have any trust in the adult world. I really try and be nice now. And I still do things where I'm rude and aggressive and use intelligence to belittle people and all sorts of things. But I'm always trying to monitor it, and I honestly think that I spend more time now laughing about my vanity and obsessions than imposing the consequences on others. And there are loads of things that I question, there are loads of things that I doubt. But I know I'm a good man, I know I'm in alignment with things that are beautiful, and this gives me a great deal of strength.'

Russell speaks of how he didn’t, “have any trust in the adult world,” as a child. Russell’s childhood is interesting because on eon side he had a “claustrophobic” adoration and love for his mother, but on the flip he had a relationship with his father that was juxtaposed mostly by sex and ‘football’ (soccer). His father had apparently left his family 6 months after his birth, but when he would visit his dad as a little boy, Russell told Sawyer that he was ignored by him, and was allowed to watch Elvis films and porn while he 'diddled birds in the room next door'. Russell’s extreme differences in relationships between his split parents, and his premature exposure to sexual adult experiences as a teenager described in his book “My Booky Wooky” along with other issues, had created a man who was utterly confused, and on a clear path of self-destruction.

'I have a propensity for self-involvement. I can be very vain and I can be selfish and I'm totally aware of that,' he says, settling himself into the leather sofa. 'And I work on it literally on a daily basis, as part of my recovery from drugs and alcohol. I'm like: "Oh no, that was a selfish thing to say. Oh no, I apologize, let me make amends." So that is part of my life.'

In my fashion, when you claim that you are not open-minded to self-improvement, that is when one decides to stop learning what aspects of life you will need in your life to continue to become a better person. When you make the choice to essentially stop bettering yourself, I equate that to ending your life, because then one has become complacent, and complacency is a terrible state of being. While it’s alright to be proud of where you have been and where you are at now in your life, complacency can bring ignorance to aspects of one’s life that aren’t of your lifestyle norm, and ignorance is debilitating, and keeps us from learning the truths of life we need to know in order to be the people we need to be so we can help others. Philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, said that “to be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life,” [source]. Even though you have done wrong in your past, I feel it is never too late to become what you envision to be your “best self”, and to essentially be a happy person. Brand is proof in that he has found a way to control his thinking, and has figured that while we all have a dark side, one can choose to make the most of their gruff childhood experiences to do the best one can in this life.

The truly weird aspect to Russell's desire for fame, however, is why he wants it. I assumed he was just a narcissist who'd like the extra attention, but there's something else behind his ambition. What Russell wants, he tells me, quite seriously, 'is to restructure, re-evaluate and change every single facet of our society to maximize the common good for as many people as possible'.

What, like Stalin, I ask. He launches into another rattle.

'The thing is, Miranda, that through circumstance or design, I have aligned my success with some quite powerful feelings. And that is now the focus of my life. The material world is a transitory illusion, and if it is, why organize your life around the systems that it imposes? Particularly if those systems have negative consequences for huge numbers of people, and the planet itself. I wonder if there are ways that that can change; I wonder if there are elements in the way that the world is organized that are arbitrary and not absolute and could be altered? And I don't mean normal things like, let's wear a ribbon - I mean the entire economic structure of the planet or the way we look at religion.

'And I'm more than aware that the chap off of Big Brother's Big Mouth is unlikely to single-handedly augment an entirely new global culture. I am quite aware that this is not something I can legislate while I am appearing in the wonderful comedies of Judd Apatow. But when you say: "What do you want?", that is what I want.'

It is the above type of thinking that I adore so much in a person, for it shows that you have a healthy sense of modesty and conduct, and that you know how to be entertaining, yet can also be understanding and courteous. While you are aware of your own desires for pleasure and expression, you are comfortable with acknowledging that not everyone may be accustomed to your temperament, and you will work to make sure others can take your actions as an innocent form of expressive integrity. It’s no surprise to me that he had a run in with a swami in Soho Square and, “he became aware that everything is connected, atomically, and it's ludicrous to imagine we are separate from anything, when we are all just vibrations.” Russell explained further, “I felt the absolute certainty that consciousness is in tune with enlightenment, and I could access it. In the same way I feel desire for a human, I felt desire for that.” In my fashion, yoga is a great tool to understanding this universal concept and learning to transcend our feeble and selfish mindsets to become a wise and enlightened being capable of responsibly wielding much power, and Russell too is an avid practitioner as well. But then one has to consider what “real” power is. As Anna Wintour told Forbes Magazine recently:You know, what does [power] mean? It means you get a better seat in a restaurant or tickets to a screening or whatever it may be.” In my fashion, true power comes from the ability to live the way you want to live and to be respected enough to have others view your opinion as inspiration to live better. Once people recognize that you are not working to be conniving or selfishly indulged, I feel that's the most effective way to communicate with others and get them to empathize on your view of life.

I don't particularly target younger people with what I do - I'm just authentic and honest…I think that what I do appeals to lots of people, younger and older, and certainly what it is, is kind of unrestrained, unbridled and authentic.

 I feel our legislators, politicians, and corporate leaders can take a hint from the bold Russell Brand and realize that maybe if you really, and truly, want to solve the problems of the nation, maybe one should invest in a little retrospective thought as to if one is being delusional to their idea of how a person would want to be treated in relation to its government. As I pointed out in my Destination: Inspiration post for NYC Gay Pride, where is there “anything in the Good Book that tells me I should do unto others as I would hate for others to do unto me?” In my fashion, we people all want one thing in this human experience, and that is to be happy and understood. If politicians, above all, should be the rightful gatekeepers to this universal goal, then I would think that all politicians regardless of any party affiliation, would see that in this modern world, public opinion is changing sans the back and forth bickering between political parties, and especially after all the human rights battles we've already fought in history. In my fashion, it has been quite apparent to me that those with the burning fire to be accepted will stop at nothing to be accepted and respected (i.e. African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement, women and Suffrage, just to name a few). It would be wise to recognize before time is wasted on frivolous insecurities of what “could” happen, and get on the business of working with the positives that can truly compromise and bring as much good as possible to most everyone’s lives. It stands to reason that we must do as it is said in "Now, Discover Your Strengths" that being straying clear from delusion, and focusing more so on the positive outcomes than worrying about the negatives, for worrying is also debilitating to the possibility of greater successes. Russell Brand does, and I feel underneath all of his unbridled comments there is a voice of reason and clarity that we can really take advantage of if we just let our minds do so. He is such a source of comedic enlightenment about the follies of life, and as the comedian, Oscar Wilde, has said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.”

Despite foppish appearances, Russell works hard to be a stereotypical bloke. He's obsessed with women and football and, he says, 'through my sexuality and through performance, I've claimed an alpha masculinity that would have otherwise been inaccessible to me'.

I appreciate his dress sense in that he finely and playfully balances himself between masculinity and femininity (playing largely with his femininity) proliferating an aesthetic look that proudly boasts relentless representation of a part of his personality that shows his own perspectives and his orientation of the opposite sex. As Helen Mirrian had said in an Elle Magazine spotlight interview: “The greatest thing about Russell is that he loves women,” says Helen Mirren, his costar in The Tempest and this month’s Arthur, inspired by the 1981 film. “I don’t mean that in a nasty, venal, sexy way. Let’s say he likes women, he likes women of all shapes and sizes. It’s very endearing and charming. It makes you feel good.” She laughs. “It sounds silly, but he’s incredibly well behaved. Yes, he has a raunchy sense of humor—when he goes off, your jaw drops—but he’s kind and gracious.” If someone as distinguishable as Best Actress Academy Award winning, Helen Mirren, who can so graciously describe him in this manner, in my fashion the sexual innuendos, and feminine sense of dress should not be disparaging to his character. He takes the “menswear” concept popular to our girlfriends, and it’s like he interprets the concept into the “womenswear” concept for men. In my fashion, what makes a man sexy for adopting this trend is that is shows women that you look past traditional misogynistic perceptions of the concept that traditionally defined masculinity and femininity, and are able to conceptualize your vision of yourself as your own self-assured male in our modern society. Men who go against the tide to express their true style, desires, and mannerisms in a mature fashion have seemed to be most desirable from women who swoon, in my fashion.  

Russell is a grand representation of this generation’s edition of man content in him mentally and sexually, constantly working to keep a balance between the two, which in my fashion is the ultimate goal for any male. In my fashion, a male who is able to dabble in between the male and female standards of conduct shows his evolution in thought towards the understanding of sexual equality and identity. In my fashion, a male who can accept a more feminine look, but still exude the bravado of a respected, content, and steadfast machismo is the sign of a male open minded to new ideas, opinions, and experiences, and on the right type of person, it can represent one’s level of enlightenment, wisdom, and a certain degree of intelligence, all factors that make a man quite sexy. He understands what he is, yet he works with the negatives to create a better picture instead of working against them and shunning them as the conventional male-type would do. His embrace of himself, for all that he has been through, serves as a fine example of the rollercoaster we all go through in life to figure out our worth in this human experience.

I conclude this post with these last words from Russell Brand, which in my fashion is a statement that I am sure we can all agree on, legislators, civilians, and foreigners alike.

When we talked before, you spoke a lot about your general love for people. Do you think your general love disappears when it comes to individuals?

No, I don't think that's true. You can't have a high-minded ideal and treat the people who work for you badly. You can't negate personal responsibility. They're more significant. Your behavior towards other people is more important than your ideals.

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