October 20th, 2020 / posted by paularath

David Byrne brings “American Utopia” to HBO.              Photo courtesy of CNN

“We dance like this because it feels so good.

If we could dance better, you know that we would.”

Well, David Byrne, your choreography may be a little kooky and quirky, but, hey, I loved it! You brought a grin to my face and joy to my heart with your delightful “American Utopia.”  What fun dancing right along side you in my family room, where nobody could see me.

Of course, the genius of director Spike Lee also helped make this TV experience one to remember – and probably for me to repeat. He shot from every possible angle and lit the stage and the musicians with so much style.

I loved the odd juxtapositions, such as the gray suits and bare feet. And the unexpected pairing of the two lead dancers. Duets often feature dancers who are as close to cloned as possible. But not in this theatrical performance!

The honesty and simplicity of the music and lyrics is so refreshing and liberating. The humor and tongue-in-cheek attitude is a balm in these fraught times.

Of course Byrne and Lee are not going to miss a beat when it comes to making a point, hence Janelle Monae’s protest song, “Hell You Talmbout” brings the Black Lives Matter movement right into our living rooms, with photos of a shocking number of people who have been killed by police. Yet the mood is uplifting, unlike most of what we are seeing and hearing around us.

This is TV worth your time!

Paula Rath

October 17th, 2020 / posted by paularath

When I was a little girl, my mother and maternal grandmother told me there were some things in your wardrobe you should never skimp on: shoes and lingerie: “Buy the very best that you can afford,” they said.

Shoes and lingerie are the basis for everything else you wear, and help set the tone. They can affect your posture, gait, comfort and most other aspects of your appearance. (Woe be to camel toe, muffin top, wobbly walk and undies lines of any kind.)

In 2020, however, I would like to expand my mother’s and grandmother’s advice to include all the clothing and accessories we buy. In addition to treating our crowded closets with more respect and restraint, we simply must consider our impact on the environment. Fast fashion is a current closet culprit in so many ways.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2015 the U.S. generated 11.9 million tons (75 pounds per person) of textile waste. That’s an increase of 750 percent since 1960. And most of that waste went into landfills.

Of course in 1960, Forever 21, H&M and Zara didn’t exist.

The New York Times recently reported that Zara releases 20,000 new designs a year. And because of companies like Zara, clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014.

It’s not just the landfill created by fast fashion that’s affecting the environment. The chemicals these companies employ in the making, dyeing and treating of fabrics are harmful enough that the EPA identifies and regulates many fashion factories as hazardous waste generators.

Fast fashion has been around now for several generations, and many of us have succumbed to its temptations. That’s why I think it’s time for a blog series on how to choose clothes that are going to last.

I will review the lessons learned from my ancestors as well as the edicts that I have followed over many years of reporting on, and creating, fashion. (You may not know that I spent two years studying in the Fashion Technology Department at Honolulu Community College, followed by three years of designing in my own studio in Kakaako.)

Please join me on this journey.

Paula Rath

September 28th, 2020 / posted by paularath

Style Section, New York Times, September 27, 2020

One of my greatest pleasures is reading the Sunday New York Times, cappuccino in hand, at a luxuriously leisurely pace.

The first section I read is, naturally, The Style Section. Today I loved Vanessa Friedman‘s take on Italy’s Fashion Week (bravo to Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons), Philip Galanes to-the-point advice on matters such as etiquette and ethics, and of course the always endearing Modern Love columns.

So imagine my delight this morning when I opened up The Style Section and found one of my favorite Hawaii-born designers featured as a woman of taste dispensing her wisdom on the subject of wedding gifts in the time of COVID-19.

Former Honolulu girl Bliss Lau is a style icon herself.

Yes, there was Bliss Lau, born and raised in Honolulu, a Punahou grad, presented as a style icon in none other than the NYT Style Section!

If you have ever met Bliss, you will not be surprised with this. She is the epitome of chic in an effortless, enviable way.

I first met Bliss when she was about 20, a student at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Her chic clothes and elegant carriage stood out even in the kooky casual environment of a studio art class deep in Palolo Valley.

Photo of Bliss Lau from a story I wrote in The Honolulu Advertiser many years ago.

I have followed Bliss Lau’s career for decades now, from handbags to body jewelry (featured in Italian Vogue, among other international pubs) to her current high end jewelry line.

A few birthdays ago, Jerry bought me a gorgeous Bliss Lau pinky ring, and it is a treasure. Understated, classic yet supremely modern, I simply adore it.

If you are interested in seeing and shopping for a Bliss Lau original, you had better hurry. The only place Bliss Lau fine jewelry is sold in Hawaii is Riches Kahala, and Lo Kaimuloa just announced that Riches is closing on October 30. Of course I will be writing more about Riches very soon. For decades, I have said that Lo is the best buyer in all of Hawaii. What a terrible loss to those of us who appreciate beautiful, original accessories!

Paula Rath

September 15th, 2020 / posted by paularath

Marnita Billups

Just last week I discovered a new dance class that’s really resonating with me. It’s called Afro Fusion and it’s taught by Marnita Billups, who arrived in Honolulu a little over a week ago and hit the ground dancing.

Marnita brings an infectious energy and joy to the live online Zoom class, which is sponsored by the Still & Moving Centerhttp://www.stillandmovingcenter.com

It’s held from 4:45 – 5:45 Wednesday afternoons.

The music was unfamiliar to me. It stems from the Afro Brazilian Culture and is called Samba Reggae. It originated in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil and is heavily influenced by Jamaican Reggae (think Bob Marley).

Marnita brings all of her training from the African diaspora, hip hop, house and modern to the choreography. It’s definitely an aerobic class and got my heart pumping. The choreography is super-fun and simple enough to follow, at least for the first class.

Marnita has deep roots in the music, having been part of Batala in New York City, an All-Women Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae Percussion Band.

If you are feeling the urge to dance and want to bring something fresh and energetic into your stay-at-home life – you can sign up for Afro Fusion at http://www.stillandmovingcenter.com,

  • Paula Rath
August 31st, 2020 / posted by paularath

Anthony Mmesoma Madu in the Leap of Dance Academy

“When I am dancing, I feel as though I am on top of the world,” said Anthony Mmesoma Madu in an interview with a Newsweek reporter.

You might be one of the 20 million-plus Instagram viewers who saw this charming 11-year-old dancing ballet in the rain in a sodden suburb of Lagos, Nigeria. His joy is unfettered as he pirouettes through the puddles.

Anthony’s is an amazing story. After that viral video in June, he was discovered by the American Ballet Theatre and was offered a full scholarship for a virtual summer training program. This has segued into a 2021 program in the U.S. through Ballet Beyond Borders.

Anthony learned to dance at the Leap of Dance Academy, owned and run by Daniel Owoseni Ajala. Bravo to this brave gentleman for introducing ballet to the children of the impoverished suburb of Ajangbadi, Ojo, west of Lagos.

Ballet must have been a tough sell for Mr. Ajala. It’s hard to imagine a more radical change from traditional West African Dance. While ballet is regimented and disciplined, West African dance is fluid and free flowing.

In a New York Times article by Noor Brara, Mr. Ajala said “In the beginning, people kept saying ‘What are they doing?!’ I had to convince them that ballet wasn’t a bad or indecent dance, but actually something that requires a lot of discipline that would have positive effects on the lives of their children outside the classroom. I always say, it’s not only about the dance itself – it’s about the value of dance education.

I lived in a suburb of Lagos called Apapa in 1973-74. At that time, there were open sewers; that may still be true in Ajangbadi. It was a challenging place to live, even for an expat with employment and the means to live in one of the more pleasant suburbs.

It was a military state and the men in uniform rode around in trucks and Jeeps with their rifles at the ready, always with menacing expressions and mean words. They would taunt me (visibly pregnant with Duncan at the time) when I tried to cross the street.

The corruption in Lagos was appalling. You couldn’t avoid it, and I mean that literally. If you wanted to drive legally, you had to pay dash (bribes) just to get the forms for the license. There weren’t many ways for a young dancer to get free of the slums in Nigeria.

Now a gifted 11-year-old has found his way out of Ajangbadi, all for the love of dance. What a joy!

Paula Rath