Arts & Culture

  1. A Brief History of Red & Pink

    Lola (from Kinky Boots) perhaps has the best line when it comes to the color red. It is the color of desire, and thus, love. Red is the shade of choice for a restaurant's interior because it stimulates the customer's appetite. There's still an urban legend that goes around saying red cars get ticketed more often than cars in other colors.

    Back in the seventeenth century, one of the original red dye came from an insect called cochineal, a little bug that now lives mainly in Peru and the Canary Islands. When Spaniard invaded Mexico in the 16th century, they saw the Aztecs had vibrant fabrics dyed in red, so the European invaders stole the Aztec's discovery of the cochineals. At that time, there had already been other sources of red dyes, but nothing was as pigmented or able to produce red hues that stayed longer on textiles.

    The Spaniards harvested the bugs, dried them, and sent them to Europe. For a long time, the bugs were one of the best-kept secrets in the dying industry because the European importers couldn't tell if the pellets they received were berries, bugs, or minerals, and the Spaniards were tight-lipped about how they procured them.

    However, in 1869, the synthetic red dye Alizarin was discovered. This dye was the first natural dye to be produced synthetically (in nature, this type of red dye was extracted from madder root). And thus the cochineal industry was upended.

    Fun fact: did you know that the red dye in your food and or cosmetics may have come from dried cochineals? The demand for natural ingredients has resurrected the need to harvest the cochineal bugs, and apparently the dye from cochineals is safe enough to put near the eyes. Check the product's ingredients. If they include carmine, cochineal extract, or natural red 4, then that product was made using cochineal bugs. But not to worry, vibrant-red sweet potatoes are now used to replace the bugs as a source of red dye.

    But back in the sixteenth century, the cost of red dye so high that only the rich and well-connected could afford it. One of the most famous fans was Louis XIV. Not only did he wear garments in red, but he also painted his heels scarlet. According to historian Philip Mansel, the gesture of painting heels meant that the nobles never dirtied their shoes, and that the red color meant the wearer was "always ready to crush the enemies of the state at their feet." Mind you, this is the same Louis XIV who famously said, "It is legal because I wish it."

    Fun fact: although the current pope, Pope Francis, has chosen to wear black shoes, traditionally, popes had always worn red papal shoes. The red shoes symbolize Jesus Christ's blood when he was whipped on his way to being crucified, and of course, when his hands and feet were pierced on the cross. Many popes decided to forego this tradition, but Pope Benedict XVI restored the use of the red papal shoes.

    Another shade of red that's just as popular, is pink. Nowadays, pink is a girl's color. This is evident in Barbie's hot pink color identity and the iconic pussyhats (initiated by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman) that first made their appearance in the US' 2017 Women's March.

    However, this wasn't the case in the mid-1700s. in Europe, both male and female aristocrats, wore pink because it was considered a luxurious color that symbolized wealth, class, and privilege. In fact, Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's chief mistress, loved pink so much that in 1757, the French porcelain manufacturer, Sèvres, named a new shade of pink, Rose Pompadour.

    Back in those days, children of both sexes were dressed in white, and pink was assigned to the boys because it was thought to be close to red, a color associated with masculinity, and had military undertones.

    In the mid 19th century, men started wearing darker tones, leaving pastels to the women, and thus pink became a feminine color. This feminization was also attributed in part to the color's proximity to the naked female body.

    The Nazis saw this color and applied it to their coding system, where gay men in concentration camps had to wear a large pink triangle, intended as a badge of shame. These gay men were lumped with rapists and pedophiles, who also wore pink triangle badges.

    In 1950s postwar America, pink has generally been associated with girls, whilst blue with boys. "Society decides what colors mean," said Valerie Steele, editor of the book Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color, and director of The Museum at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. "When that particular divide was made, it reinforced the perception of pink as a frivolous, because of its association with women, who have been traditionally looked down upon."

    But the color pink has been reclaimed. The pink triangle has now become a powerful symbol of gay pride. Rihanna came up with a pink Fenty x Puma collection that features items for men. Pink is punk, as declared by The Ramones and The Clash.

    But as punk as pink (or P!nk) is, this color is still considered a variation of the red hue. Therefore, just like red, pink (and its counterparts like peach, fuchsia, and cantaloupe) are the colors for Valentine's Day.


    Swimsuit (sold as a set): AS142-Tomato-Red
    Activewear (Mono B GREEN, sold separately): AT8004-Cantaloupe (sports bra) & APH8007-Cantaloupe (highwaist leggings)

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  2. Brittany Runs a Marathon Movie Review

    Brittany Runs a Marathon Sundance Poster

    Not gonna lie, I had been anticipating Brittany Runs a Marathon ever since I saw the trailer some months ago, and not gonna lie, my initial feeling when the end credits rolled was "that's it?"

    Even with its running (pun not intended) time (103 minutes), the film's ending somehow feels not satisfying enough.

    We meet the titular character, a 27-year-old New-Yorker Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) with issues that include drinking problem, not wanting to be helped, and using accents and bits to deflect from real problems (she taped her nose up and becomes Wilbur from Charlotte's Web when her boss at a theater she works tells her she can't be late all the time).

    Brittany goes to a physician to score some Adderall and that's when she's told she has to make some lifestyle changes since her body mass index shows her being overweight.

    "I feel like you're totally missing the point of those Dove ads," she says, referring to advertisements that promote body positivity.

    When Brittany breaks down in her apartment, her upstairs neighbor, Catherine (Michaela Watkins) with whom Brittany has a contentious relationship with (Catherine always tells Brittany and her roommate Gretchen to pick up after their things), knocks on Brittany's door to ask her if she's okay. Unable to shake Catherine off at first, Brittany tells her how she feels (she's almost 30, her life's not going anywhere), and Catherine tells her to take it day by day.

    True to the adage, the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step, Brittany starts to run, something she can afford after a visit to a gym reveals a healthy lifestyle can set her back hundreds of dollars.

    Catherine, after seeing Brittany all sweaty post-running, tells her to join her running group every Saturday, which Brittany begrudgingly goes to, and meets Seth (Micah Stock), who's also struggling to run and only does so because his kids make fun of him for not being athletic.

    From then, their friendship grows, and the trio (Brittany, Seth, and Catherine) vows to do the New York City marathon.

    As someone who's been struggling with body image, there're so many takeaways from this movie.

    First, you can't be too lazy to start, and when you do, you need to have self-discipline. Brittany is very good at this that she becomes obsessed and physically hurts herself that she needs to drop out of the marathon that Catherine and Seth run.

    Second, sooner or later, you'll start recognizing those who support you and those who don't, and it's OK to shed those who turn out to not be your friends. This happens to be Brittany's roommate Gretchen, a narcissistic Instagrammer (that's a bit redundant) who either fakes or never takes interest in Brittany's new-found love with running. And to a lesser extent, to Jern, Brittany's "coworker" turned lover in a house-sitting job they shared at a swanky townhouse.

    Third, group exercise is fun. It helps make friends, brings out of the shell, and nurtures our competitive edge (in a good way, hopefully). Catherine and Seth remind and support Brittany to keep running, to be healthier, and to be happy. Accountability is a key point here, and having friends to remind us of our goals is crucial.

    Fourth, sometimes you have to seek and accept help. This is Brittany's biggest issue in the movie. She's already hostile to Catherine, even when Catherine has been nothing but supportive, and when Catherine, Seth, and Seth's husband wants to pay for Brittany's marathon registration, Brittany flatly tells them she doesn't need their pity. It is her brother-in-law Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery) who has been her de-facto father when her actual dad passed away, who reminds that it is okay to seek help.

    Fifth, when we shame or bully others, most often than not, we're projecting our own insecurities. Brittany learns this the hard way when she's drunk and depressed, and, even after losing weight, thinks that she's not good enough. That's when she berates Demetrius' overweight female guest at Demetrius' birthday party. The female guest comes with an attractive, slim husband, and Brittany launches a tirade even as her sister (Demetrius' wife, Cici - played by Kate Arrington) is giving a toast to Demetrius.

    Needless to say, activewear and athleisure are featured heavily in this movie. There's a scene when she just starts running and she looks at the other runners who wear leggings in different colors and designs. One of the changes Brittany undergoes in the movie is her wardrobe. When she goes out on her first run, she wears a hoodie top with (most likely cotton or cotton-blend) joggers and a pair of Converse. During the marathon, she wears an athletic shirt and Capri leggings and running shoes. Cut to the ending, and she's out running with a long-sleeve athleisure top and running shorts.

    The movie premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2019 before its wide release in late August of the same year, way before most folks start listing their New Year's Resolution, almost as if to say we don't have to wait till New Year's or next Monday to start something new and drastic.

    Brittany Runs a Marathon is written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. It's out now in theaters, and soon on Amazon Prime who had acquired the rights.

    Trivia Bits:

    The film was inspired by the director's friend, Brittany O'Neill, whose photos appear before the end credits.

    Actress Jillian Bell loses 44 pounds after she began running for this role.

    The New York City Marathon is the largest marathon in the world and is held annually. Runners are expected to run a distance of 26.2 miles.

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