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March 25, 2014

Southern Belles

From Gone with the Wind to Debutante Balls, a Cross-Generational Look at Beauty in the Deep South

A little under 75 years ago, David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind delivered Scarlett O’Hara in all her Technicolor glory, imprinting forever the notion of the Southern belle: the feisty beauty with a honey-laden accent, done-up in yards of antebellum dress, on the hunt for a husband. By exploring Scarlett’s proverbial stomping grounds in and around Atlanta, Georgia, Tim Richmond and James Nutt’s documentary short Southern Belles discovers that, while the plantation no longer remains, the front porches, hospitality, grace, and etiquette persevere.

Often beneath the genteel exterior lies a strong, refined woman to be reckoned with—but presentation is still paramount. Stepping out in loungewear sans makeup or anything deemed less than respectable is a definite no-no. Equally important is their renowned, friendly hospitality. Southern ladies are exceptionally welcoming and adore entertaining. This is where the warm climate plays its part. Pleasant spring times and forgiving falls. When people are comfortable going in-and-out of doors, serving sweet tea, hosting evening garden or pool parties and the like. But on the flipside, regardless of age, many Southern women agree that one should be weary of artificiality, particularly when the mannerisms are overdone.

Today’s belles are inevitably more independent, liberated and better-educated than their predecessors. The life goal of solely seeking out an MRS degree is, slowly but surely, fading. “Long ago we were taught that we could either teach school if we wanted a career, or be a nurse or perhaps a secretary for some big shot,” notes Louly, one of the narrators from today’s short. “Things have certainly changed but the core values of the Southern belle, such as strength and graciousness, still exist.” —Lee C. Wallick

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Spotlight

Anouck Lepere's Diary of Rwanda

The Belgian Model Details Her Trip to Africa and Jewelry Collaboration to Benefit Kageno

Since her first trip in 2010, Belgian model Anouck Lepere has visited the isolated village of Banda in southwest Rwanda three times to volunteer with Kageno, a charitable organization founded in 2003 to transform impoverished communities into places of opportunity. NOWNESS commissioned Dutch photographer Dana Lixenberg to document Lepere's latest visit in January, in which she joined forces with the women of the village for a collaboration with Repossi, the Paris-based Italian fine jewelry house. Woven with aloe threads, banana leaf and other local plants, the necklaces and bracelets created in Banda will be ornamented with silver and gold locks and chains in Paris and then sold by Colette, with all proceeds going to Kageno. “When I tell people that I went to Rwanda their minds are still in 1994, but it’s 17 years on; the scars are there but you don’t notice them immediately,” says Lixenberg, who shoots with a large format camera. “It’s almost so beautiful that it’s hard to capture,” she adds of the rainforest-adjacent village of Banda. Lepere kept a diary of her sub-Saharan adventure, which we excerpt below.

Saturday, January 29
It was a much more light-hearted start than that of my last trip in April, which took place during the genocide remembrance––[an occasion where] everybody sits together for several hours each day to talk about the tragic events. Upon my arrival at the Gorilla Hotel in Kigali I noticed a party in the tropical garden, which the manager then invited me to join. I ended up in a circle dance with the group and met Rwanda’s minster of communication, who had studied in Belgium.

Sunday, January 30
I spend Sunday walking the quiet, manicured streets of Kigali, shopping and preparing for my trip to Banda. A statue on a roundabout near the parliament depicts a woman holding hands with a boy, a symbol of the law that states 50 percent of the government must be made up of females.

Monday, January 31
I set off for Banda; it's a four-hour bus ride to the remote village, which is located in the Nyungwe Forest in the southwest of Rwanda. I get the feeling I'm one of the only tourists to have taken the bus in a long time.

Tuesday, February 1
I love waking up to birds chirping. There’s no electricity, running water or cars in the village and it feels very relaxing.

Wednesday, February 2
I finally sit down with the weaving group. It was the first time they were working together on the jewelry project so we begin to determine how it will come together. The group is half teenagers and half older women. Men don't want to seem to want to do the job yet, but I'm trying! We split into small groups to work on individual pieces—I switch them around to prompt new ideas but also try to put friends together so they are happy to come to work the next day. The women love it.

Thursday, February 3
The local elections were held today; everybody in the village has to form a line behind the person they wish to elect. The first restaurant in Banda has just opened and we go for lunch with several American Peace Corps volunteers. It’s called Chez James and serves their local, mainly vegetarian cooking. The plates are filled with vegetables and salads and lots of red beans, a popular source of protein here.

Sunday, February 6

Everyone puts on their best outfits to go to church. They're so colorful and creative—from a collar made with flower petals to a cute headpiece styled into rabbit ears.

Monday, February 7
Returning to Kigali, Dana and I do a talk at the university about photography and fashion and how to earn money in those industries. Everybody was excited to see Dana’s 5 x 4 camera as it was the first time they had seen one in their lives.



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Spotlight

Francelle's Bright Face

The NARS Makeup Artist Channels Guy Bourdin for a Bold Summer Palette

Whether it be a girl decked out in a scarlet-sashed emerald dress bending backwards over a sofa, or a swimsuit-clad body hanging in an empty turquoise pool, Guy Bourdin’s photographs of the 70s and early 80s are distinctive for their vibrant colors and stylized themes that have inspired generations of photographers. His painterly, renegade approach upended fashion editorial conventions and still resonates today. In advance of a forthcoming book on Bourdin from Steidldangin titled In Between, which takes up where A Message For You (2006) left off, NOWNESS asked Francelle Daly, a New Orleans native and lifelong painter who was recently taken on by NARS as national makeup artist, to create a contemporary palette inspired by the artist’s work. Here she talks us through the look.

“From a makeup standpoint, when you look at Guy Bourdin’s pictures, even though you see a lot of makeup, a lot of color, you never lose the essence of the girl. [My palette is meant] to almost look like a Guy Bourdin flower—very beautiful skin with small elements of color popping out: a fun blue lip and a fun green, and skin, for lack of a better reference, [made-up] to emulate dew on a flower. I want to take the essence of the girl into more of a character, creature-like. A beautiful eyelash, or a beautiful shimmer on the lid and very strong lips—it’s a modern approach, as opposed to a red mouth and very black eyes. I always like to say, 'Less is more.' To achieve this look, I say pick one or pick two—do a smoky eye or do a red lip, but bring it down a notch. You don’t have to wear all at once, and as it’s more of a modern approach you could wear it in the day or into the night-time. The great thing about makeup in today’s economy is that it's a very achievable thing––you can buy a tube of lipstick and it completely changes your whole personality and your whole outlook. That’s what I love about what we do.”

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