A Million Girls Would Kill for This Job

miranda priestley - meryl streep - the devil wears prada

I watched The Devil Wears Prada last Saturday. I’d seen the film on “dibidi” but I still wanted to watch it on the big screen just so I could further gawk at the fabulous garb worn by its characters. Based on Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 novel, the film features Meryl Streep as Runway magazine’s editrix-in-chief Miranda Priestley and Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sach, Priestley’s personal assistant, a job a million girls would kill for.

The film is a lot different from the novel although it still stayed true to the spirit of the story. Interestingly, it’s actually Miranda that one could sympathize with while at the same time realizing that a big part of the character is sadly contemptible. Streep cleverly reimagined the character from the book’s Anna Wintour-inspired fashion editor to a breathy American career-obsessed boss whose own manner of putting someone in her proper place can be reduced into two words: That’s all! Well, that and staring you down should you happen to be wearing grandma’s unfashionable blue sweater.

With all the trappings of glamour, it’s easy to fall in love–or at least believe in the idea of being in-love–with Andrea’s job. Being dolled up is a requirement and budget is never an issue: one could always run to the magazine’s “closet”, every fashionista’s haven of mouthwatering clothes, shoes and bags showcase. Andrea’s story has many parallels in real-world careers: fresh grads forsaking their dream professions for first jobs that while pay well, hardly provide them the intellectual challenge for which they toiled through four years of college. There are jobs and there are jobs that one takes to pay the rent.

Even while reading the book, which seems to me less glamorous than the movie version, I can’t help telling myself that I just might kill for Andy’s job. While her work is less journalism and more of fasion, it is still publishing (which I think deserves emphasis in journalism schools even just as an elective–not all journalism graduates want to be reporters although they still want to be involved in publishing). My first job was with a women’s magazine. Unlike Andy, we were required to wear “smart casual” which was actually a pairing of slacks and a top that was anything that was not a T-shirt. No rubber shoes allowed. What meager, below-minimum-wage salary I earned on my first two months had to be spent on following the company’s dress code. We didn’t have clothing allowance.

anne hathaway - the devil wears prada

Unlike Andy, who runs errands for Miranda in a town car, gets invited to parties just for being Miranda’s gatekeeper and gets to keep her fashion stash, I and my friend and colleague, Tina, had to pick up clothes, shoes and accessories from stores in Makati all the way from Cubao. Back then, traffic jam along EDSA was at its worst since the MRT was still being constructed. We were not allowed to take cabs unless the worth of the merchandise which we had to use for fashion shoots was more than the combined salary of the staff. Otherwise, we had to take those clunky tin cans on wheels parading as buses to and from the stores while lugging bagfuls of clothes and shoes.

To drive home the point that we, the EAs, were at the bottom of the foodchain, not even the security guards would offer assistance to help us carry the stuff from the gates to our second-floor office, which was a good walking distance away in the first place. Tina reached her boiling point when she had to open the heavy sliding iron gates by herself while carrying SIX huge Louis Vuitton suitcases as the guards were idly watching by. The slightest tear on any of the suitcases would cost her four months of pay. I failed to replace a price tag on an 800-peso (roughly $20 back then) dress once and I received an earful from a stores manager like I should pay for the crime with my life. I wanted to scream that my ukay finds look so much better than her rags, but of course I shouldn’t. On an occasion that I could not replace a typewriter’s (!!!) ribbon because the purchasing department couldn’t give me the supply, the editor berated me in front of my colleagues supposedly for not taking her seriously. Her secretary who witnessed it later gave me her extra ribbon for which she still owns a portion of my soul.

Oh yes, computer-to-employee ratio was 4:1 and internet access required a password that could only be supplied by the EIC, the managing editor, and the chief artist. Nobody did the WWW thing unless it was absolutely necessary. We had to work for 6 days a week and had to stay on beyond the required eight hours during fashion shoots. On out-of-town assignments, I had to buy supplies and pack everything that was needed for the shoot until midnight and be back at work by 4:30 AM. I had to pawn my own life for the security of the model, especially if she was some upcoming mestiza teenage starlet whose mom was ten million times nicer than the spawn.

After four months at the magazine, we both knew that it was not the job we would kill for, but that it could just kill us. And we were simply too young and way too virginal to die. Thank God, the title folded up in less than a year and in spite of being out of job for a month, we were happy to not return to the publishing house that still asked us to work as account managers. I believe life’s so much different in fashion magazines nowadays. Our lives are so much different nowadays.

And so back to the book and movie, I can’t help but wonder what all the whining is about. There are tough jobs and there are those that suck absolutely. If this were in real life, Andrea just might have finished her one-year tenure instead of telling Miranda to naff off, the latter’s seeing a bit of herself in the assistant, notwithstanding. At least she gets to keep the shoes.

‘Sometimes the road ahead is paved with anything but good intentions.’

elizabethtownThanks to the “dibidi” supplier at our building, I got my hands on a copy of “Elizabethtown” which stars Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst. The film tanked at the US box office, for some reason, and a newsmagazine even opined that it must have been due to Bloom’s appeal to women–as in, he appeals mostly to women, thanks to his pretty boy looks, and that must have turned male audiences off. “Elizabethtown” failed to show on our movie theaters.
Bloom plays Drew Baylor, a once-rising star of an athletic shoes firm. However, when his shoe design bombs in the market, causing some $972 million dollars in losses, he is immediately fired from his Nike-like company. And as if things couldn’t get worse, he receives a call about his father’s sudden death at the moment when he is about to commit suicide due to the “fiasco”. He has to take the first plane to Elizabethtown, Kentucky to retrieve the remains of his father.

While on the plane, he meets Clare (Dunst), a flight attendant with an affecting sunny disposition, who helps him see his failure in a different light. It is in Elizabethtown, a sleepy pocket of Kentucky, that Drew learns more about his father and his roots, and most especially what greatness actually means.
elizabethtown orlando bloom
The film makes sense for the most part and has a promising premise. However, where Drew’s failure is concerned, it is easy to ask why a successful shoe company allowed the release of a hideously designed shoe and even perhaps without an accompanying market research to test the acceptability–and eventually, saleability–of the product. Drew’s failure could have had a better reason other than aesthetic flaws.

Setting the initial premise, the story rises to acceptable levels as Drew takes his trip to Elizabethtown, meets Clare along the way and becomes familiar with his blood ties, the laid back and rather traditional huge family that his father left behind in Elizabethtown, Kentucky for California.

But what saves this piece by director Cameron Crowe is the powerful soundtrack. Don’t lose heart since the film delivers a touching promise in the end when Clare sends Drew to a 42-hour roadtrip back to California with accompanying music at every stop and instructions on interesting destinations along the way.

Watching the Launch of PBB Celebrity Edition at Baywalk

I was not supposed to watch the PBB-Celebrity Edition on Baywalk last Sunday, but instead read Murakami’s Windup Bird Chronicle at a nearby coffee shop while Rome was covering the program.  However, an ABS-CBN PR invited me to tag along, and so I eventually found myself in the company of the showbiz press pack and a seat right there in front of the stage.  Being there meant witnessing the crazy off-cam proceedings of the program as well as having a good view of the PBBCE participants , shamelessly staring at the first edition ‘housemates’  and Toni Gonzaga’s to-die-for legs and gawking at Sam Milby’s killer smile. I still think Rico is sexier and JB shouldn’t put too much makeup, but I go for karate girl Gretchen Malalad.

During the pre-show dinner that was supposed to have been actually a press conference, people at my table (including the PR) mentioned the touchy subject, the ULTRA stampede. It was touchy in the sense that ABS-CBN also produced Wowowee, the show for which tens of thousands camped out and eventually stampeded for entrance to the Philsports Arena for chances to win huge prizes. The funny part about the discussion over the deadly Wowowee anniversary was that the PR person acted as if her employer were not at fault for the tragedy, as if ABS was the victim, instead of the 74 people who were crushed to death and the hundreds injured. The tabloid writers on my table, maybe thankful for the free dinner, agreed as if what the ABS PR was saying was true. Mga envelopmental journalists talaga itong mga press writers na ito. I swear that if Rome weren’t one of the press folks around, I would have stomped out of the place pronto.

Here is what happened: Weeks before the show’s anniversary that was to be held at Philsports Arena (formerly ULTRA), adverts were shown about the huge prizes awaiting those who would be lucky enough to enter the show’s venue. Days before the show, thousands of people started to camp out around the Philsports block, and it was obvious, judging by the massive numbers of people, that something ugly could happen because the venue was too small for the possible number of people waiting outside its gates. Still, Wowowee kept advertising prizes and inviting people to go to the arena. In short, the network encouraged viewers to amass around the venue even if it knew that the place could not hold even half of the number that was already waiting outside.  The basketball stadium could only hold 5,000; the crowd camping out was in the tens of thousands.

At about 6:00 AM on February 4, the show’s anniversary, Wowowee’s people started handing out tickets. Because many in the crowd had been camping out for days, they feared that their efforts would be in vain, and thus, agitated, jumped the lines and pushed those ahead of them. This prompted the Philsports guards to close the gates. The gates eventually gave out and those in front stumbled as the commotion to get in went out of hand.  

The show was canceled and what followed since was constant airing of reels from the tragedy and Willie Revillame asking for sympathy. Sympathy for what? For luring people to amass at the Philsports Arena even if it was already impossible to let everyone in?

To add insult to injury, ABS is now asking for donations from TV viewers for the hospitalization of the injured and I guess burial of the dead. I swear, kung sino man ang nag-donate, mga bobo kayo.  All fingers point to ABS-CBN. It was they who allowed the tragedy to happen. It is the network that should shoulder the victims’ hospital and funeral bills. And if they meant what they said that all they wanted was to help the poor, give money to each person who lined up for days outside the arena and stop airing that stupid show that has done nothing but demean women.

And fire that PR airhead. She’s not fooling anyone.