Taming the Mane

Am I pretty?

Am I pretty?

I’ve noticed a trend in the common world today, straight hair is the equivalent of beauty. I will admit that in my adolescence I watched make-over shows (primarily for the clothing), and in my time as an intern at a women’s magazine the makeovers were all incredibly similar in their styling. Every makeover given on a tv show or for a magazine saw to the flattening of curls. Frizzies were abolished and the women were sent on their way with products to help tame the mane. The shows and magazines are all saying the same thing: to be successful women should be attractive. Well, that’s not entirely wrong in our current clusterfuck of a society.

Women are perceived as more powerful if they know how to inspire arousal. And I do know that some of the shows (What Not to Wear for example) actually get to the core matter in that the issue isn’t attractiveness, it’s confidence. Stacy and Clinton are always saying, “If you feel good about your appearance you’ll feel better about your insides and exude that confidence for everyone to see, including employers, friends, family, and prospective romantic partners.” Or something along those lines.

Confidence is the key point here. Yes, it’s a good idea to look professional on a job interview, but that doesn’t mean you have to rid yourself of personality or the characteristics that make you truly stand out as an individual. More and more I’m viewing a sea of straight-haired beauties wearing ridiculous amounts of make-up to work out and pumps for every other occasion. Soon stilettos will be on treadmills and there will be mandatory waxes and peels for job positions. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I don’t think confidence should be derived from appearances. Women and men alike are being taught daily that sex appeal trumps everything else. (Feel great naked? Of course you feel great, you’re NAKED!)

I think the ultimate confidence is when you don’t have to change your looks to appeal to others. I was born with Shirley Temple hair, and by golly, if it doesn’t frizz up into a wet dog of a mess every time it rains. I still keep it in its natural element, and don’t fret terribly over its dead cell existence. Many a time friends, boyfriends, and family have remarked on how little time it takes me to get ready in the morning or before going out. That’s because I throw on something I’m comfortable in, dab on some make-up for funsies, and I’m out the door in 10 minutes or less. The point of going out into the world is to experience things, not look to see how others are experiencing you. (Or shall I say judging?) Who gives a damn.

In the ridiculous movie Bachelorette, the heavier bride, played by Rebel Wilson, said to her maid of honor (Kirsten Dunst) that everyone thought she was too fat for her soon to be husband. Kirsten Dunst just turns to her and says, “Fuck everyone.” I haven’t been this happy with Kirsten Dunst since Bring it On. Such comments are usually spouted out of a place of jealousy or self-loathing. Giving them any attention just warrants their further usage.

I’m not saying that if you straighten your hair you’re insecure, plenty of women derive confidence from the act among other things and that’s great. But it’s a cheap confidence if it’s obtained through beauty alone. Physical beauty fades, it’s a fact of our decomposing bodies that we don’t remain forever 22, and delaying the process with surgeries and treatments only makes the transition into later life more difficult. Why cling to something that doesn’t offer up anything of substance? Instead, sharpen your minds, eat well, and enjoy the simplicity and chaos that can be life. Rock your straight hair into your eighties if you want, but just realize that no one truly cares. At that age, we’re all on the verge of being forgotten, or forgetful. It won’t matter what’s on top of our heads as much as what’s within it.

The First of Many

As my title indicates, this will be the first of what I assume to be many blog posts about courthouses. Riveting at first glance, I know. While my sarcasm subsides, I’ll tell you that county courthouses actually do hold interest to me, and they should interest you too. Missouri Life has put me to the task of photographing and researching unique county courthouses in Missouri. That’s 115 in total including the independent city of St. Louis. A lot to sift through, but I think I’m the right person for the job.

Architecture has always interested me. I dreamt of being two things as a child, a librarian and a real estate agent, (not an architect though, interestingly.) I may have also wanted to be a singer at some point, but the interest in buildings and their details has never left me. I still consider that profession to this day, to mix and match with my photography and journalism if it pleases me. Old buildings have a particular intrigue about them- history.

I don’t know what it is about dead people and times past, but they fascinate many a person. Ghost Hunters anyone? Every vacation I go on there’s a haunted old mansion tour or a ghost tour, sometimes both (hem hem, New Orleans). I guess the way I would describe this fascination we have is as a fascination with ourselves. In all honesty, every time I go someplace full of obvious history, I wonder what the world around me now will look like in say, 200 to 1000 years. What would a tour say about my generation? Would people of the future even care enough to go on tours?

Try as we might to distance ourselves from the past, whether it be our own or in general, there’s always this ancestral tug, beckoning us to look closer at where we came from, what we used to be like and how we came to be the way we are today. All of the advances in the world can’t distract from the wonder of our origins. If there’s anything I learned from Prometheus it’s that we are deeply curious about our beginnings and our purpose.

Wow, I got all of that out of some old buildings? Well, this is what you should get out of this post: We leave behind buildings, scrolls, and images to say something about ourselves to future generations, to stand the test of time. These courthouses, like many aging structures, hold stories, meanings, and mystery.

The Phelps County courthouse in Rolla, MO for example was a Confederate and Union stronghold in the Civil War. It has been used as a hospital, jail, and a quartermaster store. I can only imagine the ghosts haunting that place.

The original Phelps County courthouse, located in Rolla, MO, was built along the Pacific Railroad for ease of transportation. It proved to be a strategic location during the Civil War and dominated the Rolla horizon for many years.

The original Phelps County courthouse, located in Rolla, MO, was built along the Pacific Railroad for ease of transportation. It proved to be a strategic location during the Civil War and dominated the Rolla horizon for many years.

In Boone County, the current courthouse is actually the third, but the remains of the second still stand, aligned with the columns on the University of Missouri’s campus. The columns of the second courthouse were preserved by a conscious decision of the locals to restore them. I can still remember how I felt the first time I saw the columns when I moved to Columbia in 1999. The two sets of columns looking at each other from several blocks away felt eerily comforting, if those two words together make sense. Remnants of a time past, one is the remains of a fire and the other representative of a torn down county seat, both were saved by locals who admired them.

I can see the incredulousness of it, love for stone structures, but when I see them winking at each other from a distance as if to say, “We made it!”, I can understand why they were protected, to let us in the future know that their mark had been left, and it had been left for us. How we interpret their meaning is up to us, and that’s the exciting part of it, no single interpretation is correct. We just have to know the option is there, and we have the opportunity to leave behind meaning as well… or maybe just mystery.

The columns of the second courthouse built in Columbia, MO still stand at the edge of the square, an odd location, but chosen for the purpose of aligning with the Academic Hall columns on Mizzou's campus. Academic Hall burned down in 1892, but its columns also remain.

The columns of the second courthouse built in Columbia, MO still stand at the edge of the square, an odd location, but chosen for the purpose of aligning with the Academic Hall columns on Mizzou’s campus. Academic Hall burned down in 1892, but its columns also remain.

Crowns, Dresses, and Dreams

In my stint at Missouri Life Magazine, the Show-Me state has certainly shown me a lot. I mentioned in my last post that a horse is parked outside our offices overlooking the Missouri River, so of course my assignments are just as intriguing.

Last week I ventured to Mexico, Missouri, known for its Missouri Military Academy, to witness something quite the opposite of military brawn-a beauty pageant.

The women of the Miss Missouri Pageant 2013 rushed upstairs after their first show night to reunite with their families.

The women of the Miss Missouri Pageant 2013 rushed upstairs after their first show night to reunite with their families.

And not just any old pageant, this was the official Miss Missouri 2013 pageant. The victor of this pageant would go on to Miss America, which means national T.V. and the responsibility of representing Missouri as a state in front of millions of viewers. Gulp. No doubt these women were seriously focused, but they had an easy-going charm about them that I wouldn’t have expected from women locked in a competition. If they were stressing hardcore, as I would have been, they were well trained in hiding it.

The Miss Missouri 2013 contestants rehearsed their opening number the day of their first show.

The Miss Missouri 2013 contestants rehearsed their opening number the day of their first show.

It’s obvious that the contestants would smile onstage, but once backstage I surmised all traces of exuberance would vanish. (Very assuming of me, I know.) But alas, their jaws may have relaxed a little and their polished teeth may have shown less, but they remained upbeat and for all intensive purposes satisfied. There were no angry or embarrassed tears, diva moments, backstabbing, or pouting of any kind. They all truly loved what they were doing, and despite their desire to win, found friendship amongst their competitors.

Miss contestants met with their families shortly after the first show night ended. Pictures were taken, gifts were exchanged, and congratulations offered.

Miss contestants met with their families shortly after the first show night ended. Pictures were taken, gifts were exchanged, and congratulations offered.

Aside from the contestants’ demeanor, I was also pleasantly surprised by the access I was granted. Out of the three photographers assigned to the story I was the only woman. I believe that made the women feel more comfortable with my presence backstage (although no one was allowed in their dressing room) and a lot of them enjoyed having me take pictures of them, which wasn’t too surprising.

Miss Missouri Little Sisters filed onto stage for the ending sequence. Miss contestants watched them go by, hand in hand.

Miss Missouri Little Sisters filed onto stage for the ending sequence. Miss contestants watched them go by, hand in hand.

I thought for sure a mom or pageant organizer was going to tell me to bugger off to the small, press restricted area at the front of one side of the stage, but no one did. They actually helped me maneuver around in the dark behind the curtains by asking contestants to lift their skirts and move aside for me to pass. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. No journalist likes being told they aren’t entirely in control of how much coverage they can get over their story. That’s just a frustrating part of the biz, especially within photojournalism because photos are pretty damning. Even with all of the photo manipulation tools out there nowadays, pictures are still rather convincing to the average eye.

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I relied on my old motto while working on this story: don’t ask for permission; ask for forgiveness. The writer of the story had learned from the main coordinator that I couldn’t take photos anywhere but the press section during showtime. I decided to ignore that command and wandered around, respectfully. I didn’t annoy anyone or get in people’s ways, or tamper with any part of the production. If there’s one way to get blacklisted real quick, it’s to be a clumsy reporter that mucks up the flow of things. So if you plan to heed my advice and ask forgiveness, make sure you’re not on anyone’s shit list beforehand.

Miss Heartland walked down the runway after her introduction the first night of the Miss Missouri 2013 Pageant.

Miss Heartland walked down the runway after her introduction the first night of the Miss Missouri 2013 Pageant.

Sweet Boonville Summer

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Hello blog, I have taken a vacation from you for about a month now, and for that I apologize, I hope you can find it in your little electronic heart to forgive me.

I have been quite busy since our last encounter, hence the absence, but I have returned with stories to tell. I finished up my junior year of college (scary spice!) a month ago, and have begun my internship at Missouri Life Magazine in good ol’ Boonville, Missouri.

I must say, I’m normally not a fan of small towns; they often have a desperate or neglected air about them that is not very becoming. They give me the eerie feeling of going back in time, as if they’re a stagnated bubble, unable or unwilling to move forward and leave their time capsule. There is a fine line between stagnation and whimsy. Boonville lies on the whimsy side, thankfully. Boonville doesn’t seem to have the abandoned buildings other small towns boast. The old buildings here are from an era much less recent, but they are beautifully upheld and refurbished, and a shop or a resident occupies most. Boonville has character, plain and simple.

I work down the street from beauties like this.

I work down the street from beauties like this.

It’s hard not to have character when located right next to the grand Missouri River. Where is a better place to have a Missouri magazine located than on the Missouri River itself? Nowhere, I tell you. It was along the river where many a settlement was established when the Europeans moved in. It was their transport, their sport, and their livelihood. We owe a lot of our current cities and towns to the Missouri River. And it’s not too bad too look at either.

One of the many rooms in the Frederick Hotel that I'm allowed to work in. Bliss!

One of the many rooms i the Frederick Hotel that I’m allowed to work in. Bliss!

Speaking of character, the offices Missouri Life Magazine occupy are chock full of it. They’re located in the historic Hotel Frederick, which is right next to the Missouri River. It has high ceilings, wood floors, oodles of details and tall windows; it’s essentially my dream office. Aside from the intern room, I’m allowed to venture around the hotel and work in common areas that are open to guests as well. They are usually vacant and charming, and offer that much desired silence sometimes. When I came to interview for the internship I thought, “I could definitely get some work done here.” That is always a good sign.

While adventuring around Boonville the other day, I came across another unique feature of the Frederick property, a horse. I was in the back of the building, overlooking the Missouri River, and believed myself to be alone. Needless to say I was startled when I came across a horse standing beside the dumpsters. I looked to see if it was tied up, and it was, (a bit loosely). So I thought it safe to take a picture from a little distance. It didn’t seem to mind and we both went on with our day. A horse behind a hotel is not so uncommon in Boonville. A horse and buggy can be seen any time of day on one of the small downtown streets, just trotting along without a concern for the cars around it. Here in this historic-meets-modern town, looking out of an historic hotel, Mac Book Pro all lit up, it seems just right.

Bet you don't have this lil' guy at your office.

Bet you don’t have this lil’ guy at your office.

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