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Why can’t men wear makeup?

More males are dipping their brushes into the realm of cosmetics

“You accept a grown man being mentally unstable enough to put on makeup in a non-entertainment way? Guess you’ll also end up accepting incest, rape, nudity, and all other kinds of hell that’ll break loose with no restraint.”

Photo by Homo Erectus.

It’s hard to believe that in 2016 people are still this ignorant… but on the other hand, it really isn’t.
That comment was found on Maybelline’s Instagram page, on a photo of YouTube beauty guru Manny Gutierrez—also known as Manny Mua. Manny was sporting a full face of flawless makeup.

With makeup trends continuing to rise, thanks to the onset of YouTube and Instagram beauty gurus sharing easy-to-follow tutorials, women can now achieve makeup artist-caliber results at home. But it seems like men are still too restricted by their own masculinity to give in to the siren call of cosmetics.

Manny is not the only popular male makeup artist subjected to online scrutiny because of his affinity for makeup. His best friend, makeup artist Patrick Starrr, who is more gender fluid, often wears wigs along with his painted face. Scrolling through his Instagram feed, you can find hateful remarks like “ewwww. Made me throw up” and “is this a boy or a girl.”

Manny and Patrick are two, albeit extreme, examples of how men are shamed for wearing makeup. Why are so many men vehemently against the idea of wearing makeup? It does not have to be a sign of femininity.

Men feel self-conscious about their looks, too. Men get pimples they want to cover up. Men have scars and skin discolorations they want to hide. Some just want to enhance what they have. Why shouldn’t they be able to wear some concealer? Why can’t they use powder to fix that shiny nose?

Makeup wasn’t always just for women. In Ancient Egypt, upper-class men embraced cosmetics as both a sign of status and as part of their health regimens, and it wasn’t always about vanity, according to HowStuffWorks.com. These men would use scented oils and animal fats to protect their skin from the harsh sun and soothe their aching muscles after hours of hard labour.

Men would even line their eyes with heavy black kohl and use crushed minerals to adorn their eyelids, as demonstrated by notable figures like King Tut. These were powerful men who wanted to show off their wealth through their aesthetic. They certainly didn’t worry about appearing weak or feminine.

This has nothing to do with drag and nothing to do with looking like a woman. This is a case of men wearing makeup the same way women wear makeup. Some may wear a little concealer and powder just to cover a blemish, while others may favour contouring and highlighting to give a completely different effect. And others won’t wear any at all, and that’s fine. But that shouldn’t mean all men should be shamed for wanting to experiment with their looks.

We need to start a conversation about men breaking free from the suffocating hyper-masculine facade that they are still being forced to perpetuate. Makeup doesn’t need to be gender-specific, and we need to start realizing that by shaming men for wanting to explore it—even just by making seemingly harmless jokes about it—you’re just reinforcing this toxic masculinity.

This is meant as a message for not only men, but for women, who are just as guilty when it comes to this kind of harmful behaviour. People need to explore their identity on their own, and they don’t need your ignorance to hinder that process.

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Please don’t hate on my queens

Exploring the topic of drag queens and modern feminism

Ever since the art of drag broke into the mainstream, there has been scrutiny. As an art form that was always on the fringe of society, not everybody understands what drag queens represent, but that hasn’t stopped society from passing judgment.

Montreal-based drag queen Billy L’Amour showcasing her glory and glamour. Photo by George Fok.

I consider myself to be an avid drag enthusiast, and it shocked me recently when a friend implied that drag queens were anti-feminist. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard these kind of accusations, and it leaves me wondering if the people passing these judgments have ever actually encountered a drag queen.

Drag performers have always been strong advocates for equal rights. Back in the 1960s, drag queens and trans activists were at the forefront of the Stonewall riots that changed the face of the gay rights movement. For those who don’t know, the Stonewall riots were a series of demonstrations held by members of the LGBTQ communities in New York following a violent police raid at the Stonewall Inn; after years of being discriminated against, beaten, and arrested simply for being gay or trans, the community finally fought back and changed history as we know it. They fought for the rights of not only the LGBTQ communities, but for every oppressed group, because they too understood the pain of oppression.

Some drag performers may indulge in female stereotypes at times, but drag queens have also celebrated strong-willed women. Icons like Cher and Madonna remain drag favourites because they represent powerful female energy; they dared to be different and rose to the top in a male-dominated world. Drag queens are inspired by feminist figures, but then people have the audacity to call them anti-feminist.

It’s not about men using their gender privilege to capitalize on femininity; it’s about people—men, women, and those who don’t conform to either—expressing themselves through their art. It’s about performance, and being able to take on a character that allows you to let go of reality. For some people, that involves putting on a wig, breasts, and makeup and being the strong woman they need to give them the confidence they lack in their everyday life.

Throughout history, our fragile idea of masculinity has always been restrictive in terms of how men express themselves creatively. Even in 2016, not everyone is comfortable with a man embracing a more traditionally feminine style. Drag is just an outlet for performers to break down those barriers and explore another side of themselves.

With all that said, it’s worth mentioning that this whole argument stems from a very narrow-minded, mainstream idea of what drag is in the first place. To the average consumer, a drag queen is a larger-than-life personality in an extravagant, sequined outfit, clownish makeup, and a crazy wig, who makes crass jokes and lip syncs pop songs. And while that is a perfectly respectable form of drag, it is not the only kind. When a lot of people think drag queen, they think Divine, RuPaul, Lady Bunny, or the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but drag does not always mean a man dressing as a flamboyant caricature of a woman.

Some drag performers, dating back to the club kid scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s, take on very artistic, conceptual characters that are about more than glamour, lip-syncing, or comedy. In fact, a lot of these performers don’t subscribe to one gender, and instead choose to be more fluid, drawing inspiration from both male and female ideals.

That’s not to say only men can be drag performers either. There are drag kings—women who take on male characters—and, more recently gaining popularity, bio (or “faux”) queens, who are biological women performing as drag queens. This argument also discounts the many trans women who consider themselves drag performers. Would you say they are anti-feminist?

Why are we putting feminism, and drag for that matter, into such a narrow box? There are countless ways to interpret feminism, and there are so many different forms of drag. It’s hard to generalize an entire art form as being “anti-feminist” when it not only recognizes and celebrates strong female figures, but also encompasses so many varied, unique types of artists. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if someone thinks drag goes against their idea of feminism, then so be it. But like RuPaul always says, “Unless they paying your bills, pay those bitches no mind.”

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Too much force?

Star Wars marketing to a new dimension

You can run… you can hide… but you can’t escape the mass marketing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few months then you certainly know that the newest installment of the film series has been released.

Graphic by Charlotte Bracho.

Middle-aged men and fangirls alike have been religiously waiting for years for the movie, with the world being plunged into absolute Star Wars mania. You literally can’t even turn on the television without seeing a commercial featuring a light saber or the newest droid named BB-8.

But when does it all become too much?

This is completely common for a major blockbuster like Star Wars, especially within this capitalist and commercialized framework and with a lot of money at stake. Disney acquired the rights to the films and merchandising after shelling out a cool $4 billion, allowing Mickey Mouse to cash in on this profitable phenomenon.

The entire franchise is worth upwards of $30 billion according to estimates from Wired, with The Force Awakens already dominating the box office, breaking records after 22 days to become the highest grossing film of all time.

In the next year Disney is expected to rake in a further $5 billion from merchandising alone according to vox.com, demonstrating how profitable merchandise can be.

Yet the company has a repetitive habit of taking advantage of their blockbusters; case example: Frozen.

Before the film was even released, merchandise was being rolled out to toy stores, and once the movie hit theatres the phenomenon had blown up. It has now reached a point where some individuals literally get angry just at the sight of Anna or Olaf because of the constant repetitive exposure to these characters.

Moreover many of the songs in Frozen have become nightmarish incantations for parents that the thought of a sequel is just unbearable. Do they want the same for Star Wars?

We are used to seeing characters branded onto all kinds of merchandise like clothing, toys, dishes, and other collectables, but The Force Awakens has taken it to a whole new and ridiculous level.

You can’t walk down the street, take public transit, or even listen to the radio without being inundated with this imagery. Commercials for cars, computers, batteries, and even mobile phones have all been given the George Lucas treatment (cue trademark theme music please).

Obviously this anger over the oversaturation of Star Wars merchandise is not a reflection of the quality of the movie itself, nor is it a critique of the fandom, but enough is enough.

Disney runs a tight ship and there’s a reason why they’re such a powerhouse, but this is definitely too much. Do we really need Star Wars oranges or batteries? Don’t we have enough merchandise remaining from the last few decades?

Even without any advertising, the film probably would have made a lot of money regardless, recovering the film’s $200 million budget.

The amount of merchandise branded with characters like Han Solo or Kylo Ren certainly isn’t making non-Star Wars fans rush to theatres. In fact I’m even more repulsed to go to the cinema to contribute to Disney’s overflowing coffers.

Die-hard fans no doubt love to have new merchandise to add to their collections, and they should be enthused by the fact that more sequels are on the way in the next few years.

This means we can continue to look forward to an even greater level of unprecedented marketing and exploitation of the franchise which will no doubt make our wallets thinner and Walt Disney’s bank account fatter.

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Student Life

Buy holiday gifts while donating to charity

The Nutcracker Market has gifts for all, and purchases benefit The Nutcracker Fund for Children

The holidays are a time for buying presents and giving back to those less fortunate, so why not do both at the same time?

Ten per cent of sales at the Nutcracker Market will go to The Nutcracker Fund For Children. Photo by Meghan Overbury.

At Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ fifth annual Nutcracker Market, the more you shop, the more you contribute to The Nutcracker Fund for Children. Ten per cent of exhibitors’ sales go towards the charity, which aims to help expose the arts to children.

“It’s helping kids have access to a free presentation of The Nutcracker,” said Anne-Catherine Rioux, donations advisor for Les Grands Ballets. “It’s important because it allows kids to have access to art, culture, dance, and to discover something new.”

The Nutcracker Market is a great way to do Christmas shopping without the crazy madness of big malls. Photo by Meghan Overbury.

Every year since its conception in 1997, The Nutcracker Fund has given 2,800 underprivileged children the chance to experience The Nutcracker for free. Getting kids involved in the arts is always a priority, so every fall, 1,500 kids are invited to educational workshops in visual arts, costume, and dance, according to their official website. Along the outside of the market, the walls are lined with unique and colourful Nutcracker-inspired paintings produced during these workshops. Each one is available for purchase, with the proceeds also going to the charity.

Even though it still doesn’t quite feel like Christmas in Montreal, walking into Palais des congrès will be enough to satisfy your festive appetite. It may not be a bustling mall filled with holiday shoppers, major sales, or the latest gadgets, but that’s what makes it so special. It offers an eclectic mix of items, including perfect gifts for your friends and family, or for some Christmas chachkis to spread the holiday cheer around your home. “It’s very different from other Christmas markets,” said Rioux. “It has a great atmosphere.”

The Nutcracker Fund for Children gives 2,800 children a chance to see The Nutcracker for free. Photo by Meghan Overbury.

While you stroll down the long aisle of shops—each on different “avenues” named for sponsors, you’ll notice that each booth brings something different. There are a variety of specialty olive oils, ciders and wines available, ideal gifts to bring along to your family get-togethers this Christmas. There are shops offering rustic home decor, homemade soaps, unique pieces of jewellery (in case you were looking for a pair of Amy Winehouse or Bill Murray earrings for that special someone), adorable tutus for the little ballerina in your life, and of course, Christmas ornaments.

Boutique Virevolte—the most delightfully pink shop in the market, has a collection of beautiful Nutcracker-inspired ornaments as well as actual nutcracker figurines. You won’t be able to choose just one—but that’s okay because it’s for charity.

Boutique Virevolte has a collection of Nutcracker-inspired ornaments and figurines. Photo by Meghan Overbury.

It wouldn’t be a Christmas market without candy and toys. You can indulge your sweet tooth with treats at Ferrero Rocher, CandyLab and L’Atelier du Caramel, and embrace your inner child at LOL Toys. It’s the store’s first year at the market, but as employee Amanda Mikhail said, Christmas and toys “just go together,” and the store’s old-fashioned outlook perfectly suits the market’s style.

“We don’t have anything electronic,” said Mikhail. “It’s really from newborn to adult. [LOL Toys has] board games, a lot of wooden toys, not like the flimsy plastic ones that break. Good quality toys!”

The Nutcracker Market is the perfect place to ease your way into your holiday shopping without the added stress of a chaotic mall, all while helping expose children to the arts. This season is all about bringing joy to those around you and those less fortunate, so help out any way you can.

 

The Nutcracker Market is taking place at Palais des congrès until Dec. 6.

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Opinions

A boy and his Barbie against the world—eventually

Mattel’s flagship doll is trying to expand its market for the first time ever

Barbie has been the best friend to little girls around the world for almost 57 years, but have you ever stopped and wondered what impact the iconic doll has had on boys?

Graphic by Charlotte Bracho.

When the new limited edition Moschino Barbie hit the market it sold out in less than a day—but nobody is talking about the doll. Everyone is talking about the commercial, and the little boy who stars in it.

Styled like Moschino’s creative director, designer Jeremy Scott, the boy proudly plays with his doll, exclaims how fierce she is, and ends the commercial with a wink to the camera. The video went viral, and even though the “fauxmercial” won’t be on T.V. anytime soon (it was made for Moschino’s YouTube page), there has been an overwhelmingly positive response on social media praising the progressive new ad.

If you don’t know why this is so important, let me tell you a story.

When I was a child, I was constantly surrounded by girls. I was the youngest, and the only boy, with three older sisters. Between my sisters, my cousins, and their friends, I became accustomed to being the only boy (and quickly got used to hearing “Okay girls, oh, and Marco”). Even though I loved playing with my toy cars and my action figures, I always wanted to play Barbies with my sisters and my cousins. When I was really young, they let me join in, but as I got older, the judgments were more apparent. “Boys don’t play with Barbies,” my parents would tell me, “that’s for girls.”

I don’t blame my parents, they were just trying to protect their little boy, but it definitely left an impression on me. I started feeling ashamed of the fact that I wanted to play with dolls. If I was playing at my cousin’s house, I’d silently pray that she’d suggest playing with her Barbies because I was too embarrassed to bring it up first. Asking for my own Barbie was completely out of the question—I knew I’d just be shot down and shamed for it, so I conveniently kept that off my Christmas list year after year.

As I got older, I was always presented with a variation of the same dreaded question: “Do other boys your age like playing with Barbies? Do other boys like listening to (insert pop diva here)? Why don’t you go play soccer like the other boys?” I felt ashamed by my interests for years, and it all started with being told that boys couldn’t play with Barbies. It wasn’t until my late teens that I realized how ridiculous it was to lie about the things I truly enjoyed—things as trivial as the type of music I listened to or the fact that I’d still kill for my own Barbie doll.

This commercial is going to show a whole generation of little boys that it’s okay to be different, that if you want to play with a Barbie, go ahead and have fun. Unlike me, they won’t have to grow up ashamed of their interests, and they’ll know it’s okay to ask their parents for a doll.

Thankfully society is starting to catch up and realize that, too. Back in August, Target announced that they would no longer be labelling the toys in their stores as “boys” or “girls” and that’s how it should be. There is no such thing as a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy—they’re just toys, and you can play with them regardless of your gender.

I’m still waiting for my own Barbie.

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Student Life

Spend your Christmas season on a budget

May your holidays be merry and bright with these fun and inexpensive party ideas

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of precious holiday season prep time ticking away.

Plan your Christmas parties early. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

You may still be dipping into your personal stash of discounted Halloween candy, but whether you like it or not, Christmas is right around the corner. Soon enough, you’ll be swept up in the holiday rush, frantically looking for the perfect presents for your family and friends, going from party to party, baking up a storm, all while still cramming for finals. With a month to go until the big day, why not get started early?

Plan your Christmas parties early. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

Besides shopping for gifts, the most important thing to get started on right away is planning the perfect Christmas get-together. Unlike New Year’s, Christmas typically isn’t a holiday marked by its wild parties and drunken antics. Instead, it’s best spent with those nearest and dearest to you. This year, why not try something different?

There’s nothing better on a blustery winter night than staying in and filling the house with the warm, enveloping aroma of gingerbread, so why not get your friends together for a gingerbread-decorating party? It may sound childish, but when you are catching up with friends and having some drinks (hopefully in your best/ugliest Christmas sweaters), you’d be surprised how fun it can be. Prepare gingerbread dough beforehand (or buy some premade dough, no judgment) and ask everyone to bring some decoration supplies: icing, festive sprinkles, gum drops, M&Ms, and anything else you can think of. Find some kind of to-go containers so your friends can bring home whatever cookies they don’t eat, and you’re good to go. Be warned: the clean up won’t be fun, but once you get some cocktails and cookies in you, you won’t even care anymore!

Plan your Christmas parties early. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

If gingerbread isn’t your thing, put on your dressiest holiday clothes, buy some champagne and throw an elegant affair… or as elegant an affair you can have at home on a limited budget. Christmas is the perfect excuse to dress up, even if it’s just a night in with friends. To help your bank account out, tell everyone to bring their favourite brand of bubbly or a dish of food and make your own decorations using simple craft supplies like construction paper and glitter. A little can go a long way. And don’t forget to take an adorable Christmas card-worthy picture with all your dressed up guests!

Plan your Christmas parties early. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

The holidays are a time for relaxing, so if you don’t feel like baking or getting dressed up, there’s a perfect alternative—a Christmas movie marathon pyjama party! Invite everyone over and make sure they wear their comfiest pyjamas (bonus points if they’re Christmas PJs). Buy holiday snacks, make a big batch of hot cocoa and round up as many cozy blankets as you can. Pick out some classic holiday movies for you and your friends, and then snuggle up on the couch for a cozy night in with those you love most. Who needs fancy outfits or alcohol when you have your best friends by your side and It’s A Wonderful Life playing on your T.V.?

Whatever you decide, start planning as soon as possible. The holidays move way too quickly, so take advantage of what little time you have. Whether you have a gingerbread party, a fancy affair, or a cozy night at home, don’t forget what matters most this holiday season—the people you spend it with.

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Opinions

Starbucks doesn’t hate your holiday—it just doesn’t care.

The Seattle-based coffee giant cares about selling lattes, not representing Christianity

Another day, another pointless controversy brewing on social media.

Exhibit A: The offending Starbucks’ holiday cup.
Photo by Marco Saveriano.

This week’s drama involves Starbucks and their annual holiday cups. Since 1997, devout Starbucks customers have awaited their arrival to signify the beginning of the holiday season. The design varies from year to year, but has consisted of things from snowflakes and snowmen to Christmas ornaments and reindeer. When the holiday menu debuted at the beginning of the month, the seasonal cups had no snowflakes or Christmas trees—in fact, they had nothing at all, they were just simply red. You might think this is just a creative liberty, a new minimalist approach to the holiday classic, but some people on social media took this as an all-out war on Christmas.

Even though some years the cups didn’t feature any sort of religious symbolism—unless it was a snowy night in Jerusalem when Jesus was born—many outspoken Christians believe that removing things like snowflakes and Christmas ornaments from the cups was Starbucks’ attempt to push their secular agenda on their customers and is yet another sign of our society’s decline into political correctness. The decision prompted people on Twitter to start the hashtag “#BoycottStarbucks,” and Joshua Feuerstein, a former television and radio evangelist, went so far as to say that “Starbucks removed Christmas from their cups because they hate Jesus.”

Republican presidential candidate and all around hothead Donald Trump even addressed the controversy by calling for a Starbucks boycott, and suggested that he wouldn’t renew the lease of the coffee chain’s Trump Tower location in New York.

Starbucks set the record straight by explaining that they intended the two-toned ombré design to be a blank canvas to encourage customers to draw their own designs and tell their own stories as a way to embrace people from every background. “In the past, we have told stories with our holiday cups designs,” Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks vice president of design and content, said in a statement. “This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories.”

This controversy not only seems unwarranted, but completely ridiculous. A Starbucks cup is just a piece of cardboard that you fill with a fancy $6 latte and then throw in the trash. They are not trying to make a political statement. And the cups didn’t even always represent Christmas! Snowflakes and snowmen are not Christmas-related, they are winter-related, and the cups are for the seasonal drink menu from November to January, not a Christmas menu. There doesn’t need to be a religious connotation at all; even if they have featured Christmas trees or Santa Claus on their products through the years, those images have gotten so commercialized that they barely even represent the Christian religion for most people. What’s the point in getting mad? Do people really have nothing better to do?  Besides, it’s a coffee shop chain—since when are they the moral compass for the nation?

Possibly the most laughable part of the whole thing is that outraged customers started telling baristas that their names were “Merry Christmas” so that they would have to write it on the cup. Seriously—because nothing says “TAKE THAT, STARBUCKS!” quite like spending your money in their store. You sure got them! If you’re truly outraged by this whole ridiculous situation, just stop buying your daily venti non-fat caramel brûlé latte and go somewhere else that will cater to your immature overly-sensitive needs.

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Arts

Meet Montreal’s beloved Billy L’Amour

Catch her in The Phi Centre’s upcoming Hysteria. She’ll put on a show you’ll want to drag everyone to!

It’s not every day you meet a performer who can light up a stage quite like Billy L’Amour. The Montreal-based drag queen extraordinaire boasts an impressive resumé—she is a former ballerina for Les Ballets Grandiva, an all-male drag/ballet hybrid, a soloist for the Paris Opera and La La La Human Steps—and with a string of upcoming shows and an impending move to California, it won’t be long before everyone knows her name.

The poster for L’Amour’s Gentlemen Prefer Billy. Photo by Marisa Parisella.

Before there was Billy L’Amour, there was just William, a boy from South Florida with a passion for dance who knew he needed more than what his hometown offered. So 16-year-old William moved to New York and pursued his dream of dance at the School of American Ballet—one of the most internationally renowned classical ballet schools—but soon discovered a whole new world just waiting for him to explore.

“Dance was always my passion in life, it’s what I was dedicated to, but New York offered such a smorgasbord of fabulous,” said L’Amour. “For a little art kid from a somewhat conservative family in South Florida, it was a dream come true to be hanging out with Amanda Lepore and all these club kids, and Patricia Field … I realized right away that I wasn’t going to be this classical ballet dancer. I didn’t want to be a prince. I wanted to be the princess.”
The little boy who used to play with his mother’s makeup felt right at home with these colourful artists, and immediately joined in. “When I moved to New York, that’s when I started going out in drag, creating a look,” L’Amour said. “Then people started hiring me to show up at their club parties and just be a fabulous creature of the night.”

Just like that, the queen known as Billy L’Amour was born.

L’Amour silencing any doubts that you won’t leave entertained.
Photo by George Fok (PhiCentre).

L’Amour has since become a fixture on the Montreal burlesque scene, performing regularly at The Wiggle Room. Now she’s debuting her very own “one wo-man” show, Gentlemen Prefer Billy, at this year’s Montreal Burlesque Festival. The show—which L’Amour says is “a dream come true”—features a full jazz band, and will take place at The Wiggle Room with shows on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 18 (the latter features a special appearance by Scarlett James, the festival’s producer). L’Amour will be performing jazz renditions of hit songs from artists like Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Whitney Houston, and she says there will be “lots of singin’, dancin’, and strippin’. And Billy L’Amour’s trademark ass and sass!”

Not only is she busy putting the finishing touches on Gentlemen Prefer Billy, but she’s also collaborating with The Phi Centre for Hysteria, an “immersive theatrical experience,” this Halloween. L’Amour will be the “Mistress of Madness,” taking the audience on a journey through an asylum during a night filled with aerial and burlesque performers, puppetry and more. “The audience will be interacting with the performers,” said L’Amour. “And they will be forced to engage in the storyline.”

Those shows, along with a Christmas spectacular—which L’Amour is keeping tight-lipped about—are leading up to her big move to Los Angeles in 2016. There’s one thing that some local drag queens try to avoid: the obvious RuPaul’s Drag Race question. L’Amour, however, excitedly admits that she’d love to be on the show, so that’s exactly what she’s preparing for.

Billy L’Amour in action by George Fok (PhiCentre).

“That’s the goal,” she said. “You have to have something that people want, and I think people want talent and to be entertained, and so that’s what we do.”

As drag becomes more mainstream, it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves—in large part due to the massive success of RuPaul’s Drag Race. However, as this artform had been misunderstood for years, some people have started to become too critical of it, stripping away its fun essence.  L’Amour doesn’t let that get in her way, because one of the things she loves most about the art of drag is that it “doesn’t take life too seriously.”

“Drag is just an explosion of whatever your little heart desires … Let’s have fun with it,” said L’Amour.

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Student Life

Longing for colder days: A letter to summer

Leaves should be changing colours but people are still wearing shorts. Where are you, fall?

Dear summer,

It seems like our time together is almost over. School is back in session, the days are getting shorter, and there’s a chill in the air—the sign that fall is just around the corner… or at least, there should be a chill in the air. Just when I thought things were over between us, you crawled your way back into my life once again. You made us think the warm weather was gone once and for all, but the last few weeks have been some of the hottest of the season and all I can do is admire the rays of sun as they flood over my desk as I sit in class.

Why is summer still lingering? Photo by Cristina Sanza.

Sure, it’s nice to hold on to the last taste of summer for a while longer, but it’s too little, too late. You weren’t there when I needed you. All those times when I wanted to go to the beach with my friends or spend a lazy day soaking up some sun by the pool, you were nowhere to be found. I was left out in the cold and wasted away precious days of my vacation. When I wanted to have a picnic in the Old Port, you decided it was time for a torrential downpour. But now that my days are filled with lectures and homework, you crank up the heat? No thank you.

I had some fun times and made some great memories, but now that September is underway, I’m tired of being sweaty, tired of the incessant mix of body odour and who knows what else on the metro, and most of all, tired of never knowing what to wear. Is it going to be cold this morning? Oh wait, it’s supposed to be 30 degrees celsius later and I’m running out of clothes to wear. I only have so many T-shirt-and-short-combos I can pull off, so it would be nice to make use of my closet full of chunky sweaters, jeans and cardigans.

This is what we should be seeing. Photo by Cristina Sanza.

It’s time to move on: fall is on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to cool breezes and seasonal lattes. But mostly, I just can’t wait until winter. Good ol’ winter; we’ve always gotten along so well. Maybe it’s my love of hot cocoa, or my penchant for thick, knitted cardigans, but whatever it is, winter will always be my favourite. Winter means shamelessly curling up in a ball under your warmest blanket and watching Netflix for hours on end. There is no guilt for spending a beautiful day inside when the snow is falling. A world covered in a pure, white blanket is all I need.

So, summer, it was nice while it lasted. We had our good times , but now we have to say goodbye. I’ll remember you fondly when I start getting tired of the snow.

Until next year,
Marco

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Arts

The stories that sweetened our summer

As we bid farewell to the summer, here are five books we read while on vacation

 

  1. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (By Lydia Anderson)

 

Maybe it was because I read it lying underneath trees and blue skies on grassy knolls, but Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Montreal’s own Heather O’Neill, was a book that surpassed the rest of the reads on my summer book list. Little did I know how fitting it would be to read this novel when I first returned to Montreal—most of the novel takes place in this fair city. The book is written from the perspective of Baby, starting from her 12th birthday, and follows her as she navigates her youth with a heroin-addicted father. Not well-off to say the least, the two bounce around apartments as Baby grows more knowledgeable about street life with each passing chapter. Baby’s is a perspective that maintains some innocence and remnants of a childlike worldview, but also introduces readers to the realities of her rougher situation. From foster homes to becoming involved with a pimp, the readers follow Baby as she navigates her reality and speculates about what she’s experiencing. O’Neill’s ability to embody tainted innocence was impressive and prevented me from leaving the book out of my hands for too long. The weather still allows for some reading on a nearby grassy knoll, but not for long, so grab a copy of this novel and enjoy it as much as I did.

 

  1. You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart (By Marco Saveriano)

When I look back at my summer, the first things that come to mind are STIs, hallucinogenic drugs, and endless drunken nights. No, I didn’t spend the last few months on shrooms, getting drunk, and having sex with strangers—my loss, I know—but I did read all about it in Mamrie Hart’s You Deserve A Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery.
In a world where it seems like every YouTuber has a book deal, it’s hard not to write them all off, but Mamrie Hart is an exception. Anyone who watches Hart’s videos (notably, her “You Deserve A Drink” series) knows that she has great comedic timing and a gift for coming up with perfect puns—as well as being a master mixologist. I had no doubts that her book would be equally as hilarious.

You Deserve A Drink flawlessly captured Hart’s voice and shared stories so outrageous that if it were anyone else, I would have assumed they were exaggerating. Even though I was tucked away in my basement, curled up in a ball with her book, I felt like I was right there with Hart on spring break at a gay nudist resort, or when she accidentally set her coat on fire—twice—while tripping on shrooms at a Flaming Lips concert. The best part is that Hart never seems like she’s trying too hard. She’s authentically funny, which made for one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. After restraining myself from reading this book cover to cover in one night, I definitely deserved a drink.

 

  1. Paper Towns by John Green (By: Alex DiMeglio)

While vacationing in Paris I decided to pop my John Green cherry and give Paper Towns a read. The coming-of-age novel follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen as he spends his last days of high school searching for the love of his life Margo Roth Spiegelman when she goes missing after a night of debauchery.
​Whether I was reading the book on the sands of Saint-Tropez or at a café in Paris, I always managed to forget my surroundings and fall for the witty writing and engrossing mystery, which frustrated me to the point where I just kept on reading because I craved the answers to all the ridiculous questions brought about by the novel. This novel was bought from the ‘young adult’ section, but should be required reading for all of our inner-teenagers that we still cling to, because youth reminds us that we are alive and we should be embracing such a precious gift, as opposed to complaining about it day in and day out. This novel managed to transform an unlikeable main character into a likeable one because his tireless pursuit taught him a valuable lesson. Our life is like a novel—what sort of things can you do to make others want to read it? A truly remarkable read from start to finish, full of humour, passion, romance, a few surprises and enough cheese to remind you that the word impossible shouldn’t exist in our vocabularies.

 

  1. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (By: Jessica Romera)

Despite it being nearly 400 pages, I devoured Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues in a matter of days during my summer break. I was away in Europe for about a month which meant lots of trains, planes and bus rides, so a ridiculous amount of time for reading. I had never read anything by Robbins before, but now my bookshelf is spilling over with more of his novels. This is the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a stunning girl growing up in small-town America. She embodies most of the feminine ideal—Sissy appears to be nearly perfect, except for the fact that she has gigantic oversized thumbs. While she sees these thumbs as a gift, everyone else around her sees them as a grotesque deformity. This prompts her to pick up hitchhiking and she ends up crisscrossing the country. She eventually finds herself on a ranch run exclusively by cowgirls and Robbins weaves Sissy’s narrative into theirs. He uses satire unapologetically while tackling larger social issues predominant during that time, like feminism, free love, experimental drug use and cultural identity (the book was published in 1976). Robbins’ style is easy to digest and ridiculously fun to read—he’s crude, but not unecessarily gross. He uses a ton of vivid descriptors to paint his scenes, but his words are not gratuitously flowery and redundant. If you’re looking for a funny, yet smart read for an upcoming trip, I recommend you give Even Cowgirls Get The Blues a shot.

 

  1.  Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert (By Elijah Bukreev)

Longing for more after falling in love with the prose and style of Madame Bovary, I found myself reading Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education. Like the main character, I was a young student living in Paris—it was during the last month of my exchange. I found the novel in a second-hand bookstore. It was brand new, probably bought by a high schooler for a French class, never read, and discarded as soon as the year was over. And now it was mine. I read it all over the city, sometimes in the very places that were being described.

As with Madame Bovary, which, as far as film adaptations go, has been somewhat misunderstood, it is acutely caricatural, with vibrant characterizations. If in Bovary Flaubert was mostly concerned with deromanticizing typically romantic characters, in Education he was drawing a portrait of the social and political life of his time, the mid-19th century, through the story of a young bourgeois man’s absurd infatuation with an older, married woman, which lasts for decades. Reading it now, in France, it is surprising to see that many things have remained the same.

One of the most poignant passages is the detailed description of a revolution, each step being thoroughly documented. The events unfolded unexpectedly and with shocking speed. Many speeches covered in the novel are things that are still being said today, and there is such recognizable dissatisfaction with the government in the air that many of Flaubert’s points still stand in today’s political landscape.

Categories
Arts

McGill’s production of Chicago is a killer

A talented ensemble cast and sweeping jazz score charms all

Are you ready for a night filled with sex, murder, and “All That Jazz?” McGill’s Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society (AUTS) has taken a leap of faith with its latest production, the wildly popular Broadway musical Chicago—and the risk definitely paid off.

Set in the mid-1920s in (you guessed it) Chicago, the musical tells the story of Roxie Hart, who murders her lover and winds up in jail. Little does she know, her crime could be her ticket to stardom. Unfortunately, she has some competition in fellow inmate Velma Kelly, who has her own eyes set on vaudeville fame.

The live band set the tone for the show, transporting the audience back in time to a jazz lounge of the roaring ’20s and taking the production to a whole new level.

The stars of the show, Natalie Aspinall as Velma Kelly and Vanessa Drunsnitzer as Roxie Hart, were exactly that: stars. Both women exuded charm and sex appeal on the stage, with powerhouse vocals and on-point dance skills to boot. Their shining moments are too numerous to mention. In fact, the female ensemble was full of very strong performers, giving the men a tough act to follow.

These strong female players were the reason artistic director Debora Friedmann wanted to tackle the show in the first place.

“We have so many incredible, strong female performers, and I really wanted to find a show that I knew would showcase that,” said Friedmann, a fourth-year anthropology student. “I thought it would be the perfect show to really both showcase the incredible female talent that we have here at McGill and at the same time send out a more distinct message than some other musicals.”

Friedmann, also the show’s choreographer, drew a lot inspiration from Bob Fosse’s original  choreography. She even took some cues from watching videos of Beyoncé, as well as from her own personal street dancing background.

One of the stand-out moments of the night was the “Cell Block Tango.” Over the years, this song has become one of the show’s most ubiquitous tracks, as well as an anthem for powerful (albeit murderous) women.

So how did the AUTS ladies compare? They killed it—no pun intended! The entire performance was fuelled by a fiery passion, each actress upping the ante, one after another, as the women of “Murderess Row” shared the tales of their heinous crimes. Suffice it to say, by this point in the show I could already predict that the production was going to be a hit.

The women don’t deserve all the credit. Olivier Bishop-Mercier gave a heart-warming performance as the charmingly oblivious Amos Hart, and Kenny Wong’s take on the cocky, scheming Billy Flynn stole the show. His hilarious rendition of “We Both Reached For The Gun,” which, for those not familiar with the musical, features the ensemble as journalists being controlled like puppets as Flynn speaks through Roxie like a ventriloquist dummy, was executed perfectly. A scene as ridiculous as this one could have been a disaster, but with such strong choreography (and an even stronger cast), it turned out just as humorous as the original.

The show wasn’t without its mishaps, as is expected with the debut of any production, but a couple of flubbed lines and technical difficulties here or there are hardly anything more than a small scratch on a massive success.

Chicago is being presented at McGill’s Moyse Hall from Jan. 22 to 24 and 29 to 31. For ticket info, check out autsmcgill.com.

Categories
Student Life

We’ll always have Paris…or Montreal

They say that Montreal is the Paris of North America: here’s why

Ah, Paris!

I’ve always had a longing to visit Paris. Everything from its fashion to its desserts has left me in awe for as long as I can remember. Hopefully, one day I’ll have the chance (and the money) to live that dream. Until then, we’ll always have Montreal.

Paris is a unique city in both its culture and charm, and nothing could compare to the real thing. But our modest metropolis definitely has an appeal of its own—there’s no better city in which to take a Parisian vacation, besides Paris itself.

To start off my French adventure, I headed to Old Montreal, which is undoubtedly a little piece of Paris in Canada. Over the years, several movies have actually been filmed in Old Montreal as a way for filmmakers to recreate European cities on a budget. The cobblestone streets and historic buildings also made it the perfect place for me to pretend I was in Paris. The best thing about it is that admiring the charming shops and walking along the water by the Old Port is completely free.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Paris? For myself, it’s the stereotypical image of a French café. Clichéd, maybe, but who doesn’t dream of sitting on a terrasse outside a café on St-Germain-des-Prés with a café au lait and a delicious pastry, while quietly admiring the city around them?

Unfortunately, the brisk Canadian weather put a damper on my plan to dine al fresco, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still enjoy a brunch fit for France. I decided to check out Maison Christian Faure; tucked away on Place Royale in Old Montreal, the pastry school and boutique offers a “chic snacking menu” filled with mouth-watering desserts, traditional French dishes (like quiche Lorraine), and a variety of salads and sandwiches perfect for any brunch date.

Walking into the parlour was like entering a scene from Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette: an elaborately-painted mural by the entrance, display cases filled with colourful cakes and delicate French pastries, a tower of macarons, and bottles of Veuve Clicquot strewn about. I seriously considered asking if they’d let me move in.

I ordered the quiche Lorraine, made with eggs, cream, ham and cheese, and of course, a café au lait with a hazelnut éclair (my stomach is rumbling just thinking about them). The quiche was moist and delicious, the coffee was made perfectly, and the hazelnut éclair…I was speechless. The cream was so rich and sweet that I definitely think I was left with a cavity. My friend ordered a chocolate dessert that could only be described as creamy chocolatey fudge goodness in a cup. Thankfully we got out of there before devouring everything in sight and developing diabetes.

After wandering around our personal Paris a little while longer, I (somehow) felt my stomach starting to rumble again. I hopped on the metro, the mode of transportation for any Parisian on the go, in search of my next treat: les macarons.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of tasting a macaron, they’re French meringue confections made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, and almond powder. They typically come in an array of flavours and colors, and they’re delicious!

Boutique Point G on Mount Royal Ave. E. has some of the best macarons in Montreal. The shop offers over 22 flavours which left me with one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in a long time. As much as I wanted to buy them all, I settled on six: caramel fleur de sel, Madagascar vanilla, choco-hazelnut, maple taffy, gingerbread, and coconut.

I know there’s more to Paris than eating croissants and drinking coffee; it’s a city with such a rich culture, including museums, ballets, and so much more. Unfortunately, appreciating the arts often comes with a price tag—of course, so does food, but you can always make an exception for a delicious pastry. Montreal is filled with museums and you can find some kind of performance on any given day, so you can continue your European adventure. But why not appreciate some of the more beautiful things the city has to offer for free?

One of Paris’ most famous free attractions is the iconic Eiffel Tower. People flock to the tower from all over just to admire it from afar, and it’s largely considered one of the most romantic spots in the world. Of course, there’s nothing in Montreal that could come close to its beauty, but I found the next best thing.

Place Ville Marie’s Christmas tree is a sight to see for anyone dreaming of heading to the City of Lights. Standing over 62 feet high, with more than 13,000 LED lights overlooking Ste-Catherine St., it’s a holiday tradition for many Montrealers. I thought it would be a perfect way end to my Paris trip. Even though it’s not the quite the Eiffel Tower, it’s still a beautiful way to finish a long day.

À la prochaine, Paris!

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