Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Yes And…."

Remember "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (WLIIA). It was an amazing show comprising a panel of 4 improvisational actors who create scenes and songs on the spot….yes...without a script. Although they made it look easy-breezy, the truth is that this is an art that takes a lot of practice. Ironic? Not so much! Read on…

Obsessed with how talented the cast is in WLIIA, I did a little research and came across one of the institutions in NYC that is dedicated to this art. Magnet Theater, located in the heart of Manhattan offered a hefty 2 hour free "Intro to Improv" class designed to help you understand the very basics of the art. I took it with the very talented (and completely adorable), Rick Andrews. Rick took us through a few basic exercises that helped us feel comfortable with each other and build a dynamic that was quite intuitive. My favorite was when we got to rant about an actual pet peeve in an…*drumroll, please* orchestra type format. In case you were wondering, mine was about how Joe, my boyfriend, squeezes my toothpaste tube in the middle instead of all way at the end like normal people do. Drives me INSANE!

Improv is a team sport with words as our building blocks, if you will! It's a joint effort that plays off the other person's energy and honest reactions that makes it so funny and relatable. One of the techniques is the "Yes, and…" can be applied to our everday lives. This technique is particularly helpful in carrying a conversation especially in a new setting like networking. "Yes, and…"essentially holds an offer that your conversation partner has made as true and you must add to the conversation and build on it. Picture this in a networking situation...It's just genius!!
Rick Andrews teaching his class

Here are some other things I learnt at improv:
  • How to be an active listener so that you're able to create and hold a meaningful conversation with who could possibly be your next boss
  • How to get to know yourself better and be yourself (more often, that is)
  • How it's important to pay closer attention to body language and subtext

Now, I am not an actor/performer of any sort but I respect the people who study their art devotedly. Particularly, comedy, I think, is a noble profession. You have to be daring enough to go up there and attempt to make people laugh. It's not guaranteed that your audience will be laughing at all. Plus, you know some self-centered, wise guy in the audience will inevitably challenge the comic, and let's be honest, which puts a damper everyone's night and also makes that 2 drink minimum seem like a blessing!

For the full experience, sign up for your free class at Magnet Theater and then the Improv 101 like me. It's fun and I bet you'll thank me!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Reinvention of: Madonna (Again and again and again….)

 Who doesn't love Madonna? Anyone? Didn't think so! She's iconic, influential, bold and a pioneer. In a business where it's easy to be a one hit wonder and get completely lost in a sea of talent, Madonna has managed to build a brand that keeps us on our toes anticipating what she'll do next but you know she'll  never be anything BUT Madonna. And she refuses to disappoint…..even with modest vocal talent.

Madonna's punk rocker look that is iconic to present day
Photo Courtesy of

From her Like a Virgin phase to the Blonde Ambition tour, she has managed to stay "True Blue" with clever lyrical compositions and the "brand image"  she has developed over the years. It takes a visionary to maintain the kind of consistency that Madonna has exhibited in her franchise.

According to the recent trend, so many celebrities are eagerly leveraging their star power by venturing out into other businesses, whether it'd be an eponymous perfume by Jennifer Anniston or a nail polish line by Justin Bieber? Well, we all should've seen that coming since it was only a matter of time, really! (Psst, in case you were wondering, Nicole by OPI has sold over a million bottles of their Justin Bieber line since it's introduction in mid-December- true story). However, it is beyond admirable that Madonna has continued to focus on reinventing herself as a classic brand rather than dabbling in a million completely unrelated businesses. Not that I am saying that celebrities who are eagerly cashing in on their early success are doing anything wrong. But when you compare this strategy to a true icon, it just seems more desperate and less spreading-your-risk-for-a-better-return strategy.  It's no wonder Madonna's concerts sell out months in advance. She makes you feel privileged to be in her presence. Think of Madonna as the Louis Vuitton of the designer world. LV is a brand that fiercely controls its channels, pricing and mainly it's brand image. I mean really, have you ever bought an authentic and classic LV on clearance? Didn't think so!

If somethings sound just too good to be true, chances are, they are!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Express Yourself

"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening"- Coco Chanel

Fashion has had a long intertwined love affair with art and music that has spawned extraordinary love children over a matter of centuries. Fashion is something you feel, live, and breathe and it's never limited to "something you only wear".  You can tell a lot about a person from what they wear and let's be honest, we all implicitly (some of us more explicitly) judge them for it! On a superficial level,  it makes you who you are and gives you a chance to somewhat control viewer's thought patterns on how you'd like to be perceived by them.  There's nothing wrong with that. We simply don't have time to get to know every single person on earth and first impressions help us filter our choices down. From what you wear to what you drive, it shapes your personality or perhaps the other way around. It's a chicken or the egg conundrum that is simply not worth exploring (right now anyways).
For those of us who are true to our tastes, it's inevitable that our personalities shine through our material possessions. By now either you have formed an opinion being convinced that there, indeed, is a strong correlation between cars and fashion (among other fields, of course, but we'll explore that sooner rather than later) or are a non-believer who thinks it's a forced connection I am trying to make. Fine, I understand the skepticism. The correlation is more a conclusion based on collective school of thoughts rather than an isolated incident. The aesthetics of a car speak  to it's function similarly as it does in fashion. A sports car designed to be fast will particularly to cater to the aerodynamics by having a streamlined design versus a car designed to be rugged will have a rugged frame to match.

I like to compare what a brand of a clothing/retailer does to that of a carmaker from a business as well as a consumer perspective. It's what they stand for and who their market is. J. Crew is a brand that has been on everyone's radar for quite sometime. Although they've dabbled in bridal and kid's clothing, they have only but a few styles but they seem to do them well rather than painting the town red but lacking mastery and sincerity in sticking to the core product. Mini is a brand that made a slight splash few years ago with a signature looking car and although they've managed to introduce slightly different versions of the product while carefully managing to never veer too far from their core. Plus, both are pretty reasonably priced for the quality of the product. I picture the person wearing J. Crew to be  driving a Mini Cooper. Simple!

We live in a world where keeping up appearances is the reality of life. With the rise of television and culture of celebrity worship, this shouldn't be at all surprising. However, if I have shed light on any aspect in this entry, I am glad to have been of service.