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Mirabelle Buttersfield, the triumphant introvert.

People, The Creative Introvert

In 2005, Steve Martin adapted his book ‘Shopgirl’ to a film of the same name. It is a rare story where the principal narrative is a portrait of a female introvert that ends in joyful triumph and not self-inflicted tragedy.

It embraces the simple truth that introverts make brave decisions every day in order to shape their own destiny.

Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes) is a young woman in her twenties who by day works at the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue. By night she is an artist, heading out to secluded places to take flash-lit self-portraits. She transforms the images into pieces that depict her cocooned in blackness.

Mirabelle lives in a simple apartment with her cat, who seems to reside under the bed most of the time. Like her, the cat is mostly silent. Mirabelle’s life revolves around a daily routine of quiet industry behind the glove counter, quietly taking an anti-depressant, and diligently going about trying to fulfill her dream to become a full-time artist.

Her life shifts as she encounters two new people in her life. Ray (Steve Martin) is at least thirty years older than Mirabelle, quietly spoken and wealthy. Apart from the obvious, Ray is drawn to Mirabelle’s introversion, he is a quiet man himself, and as he pursues her he realises how much he also enjoys her company, her quiet intelligence, and sense of humour.

The other, Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), is her contemporary. He is awkward and erratic and has no clue how to behave on a date. After a couple of awkward dates with Mirabelle, Jeremy seeks to find his destiny on the road with a rock band. While he is away he is encouraged by the lead singer of the band to improve himself with self-help books and tapes.

Mirabelle meanwhile has developed strong feelings for Ray. She experiences the thrill of having a gown custom-made for her. His gifts are lavish and thoughtful but there’s an unspoken trade-off. The gifts are supposed to compensate for Ray’s lack of commitment. Despite this Mirabelles relationship with Ray briefly flourishes and she feels so wonderful she decides she no longer needs her medication. After days of being in bed and not answering her phone, she confesses to Ray that she has stopped taking her anti-depressant. He immediately takes her to her doctor, brings her back to his hillside home above the city lights, and gently tucks her into bed. We see from this that Ray has genuine affection for Mirabelle. But it isn’t enough.

It soon becomes clear to Mirabelle however that there is no long-term future in her relationship with Ray. To be fair, Ray has been honest all along about his intentions with Mirabelle. The problem is he has been honest with his therapist, not with Mirabelle. Her world comes crashing down when he casually lets slip his plans to get married and have children. The implication is clear – he doesn’t see those things happening with Mirabelle.

Despite the loss of her relationship with Ray, Mirabelle soldiers on. She leaves her job at the glove counter and goes to work in an art gallery, taking a step closer to the life she wants.

In the meantime, Jeremy returns from his travels with a new outlook on life. He has a crisp new white suit, a gift from the lead singer of the band he toured with and it is symbolic of the confidence he now has. He’s a man who now understands what he wants his life to be.

He and Mirabelle meet again and she can see the changes in Jeremy. His newly discovered maturity signals to Mirabelle that perhaps he is a worthy partner.

The next time we see Ray he is outside the art gallery where Mirabelle is holding the first showing of her work. They greet each other with genuine affection and then part as Ray (in voiceover) acknowledges sadly, that in the end he was not worthy of her. He watches as Mirabelle turns toward Jeremy who is literally waiting with open arms, the perfect counterpoint to Ray who always kept her at a distance.

Mirabelles triumph isn’t that she is finally in a serious relationship and no longer has to go it alone. Her triumph is that she made it on her own.

It was her tenacity, perseverance and quiet self-belief that propelled her on after a devastating fall. Mirabelle is an introvert heroine for the ages, a woman of character and strength who didn’t change herself to achieve her dreams.

I think we need more stories like these.

Have you seen Shopgirl or read the book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Grace: The creative introvert who changed fashion

People, The Creative Introvert

In the 2009 documentary The September Issue, there are two scenes in which Grace Coddington, then Creative Director of US Vogue magazine, gives us a rare insight into how she views the world. In the first, she is en route in Paris. She speaks about working with the photographer Norman Parkinson early in her career as a fashion editor.

“He taught me to always keep your eyes open, you know, never go to sleep in the car or anything like that. Keep watching because whatever you see out the window or wherever, it can inspire you.”

The scene then changes to Grace on location at Versailles. As she looks out over the landscaped gardens she says that she is still a romantic and that perhaps she has been left behind.

When I first saw these two scenes together in the context of the entire documentary, I recognised the characteristics of the creative introvert – the passionate attention to detail, the preference to work alone or with only a few people, and the need for quiet concentration and contemplation. A few years later I was gifted a copy of her memoir and it completely cemented my initial impression.

I’ve since come to regard Grace Coddington as the quintessential creative introvert and a personal benchmark when it comes to achieving great things with integrity and, no pun intended, grace. I also love her sense of humour…be sure to visit Grace’s website and see what I mean for yourself.

So, if you’ve read this far, I will assume you want to read more, so I will, of course, indulge you. Here are some of my favourite quotes from Grace’s memoir:

When the September Issue was in production, Grace was placed in the spotlight, and she wasn’t happy about it. In her memoir, she wrote of having cameras intrude on her day-to-day work at Vogue.

“Perfectly nice they were, but I told them I wasn’t interested and I didn’t want them anywhere near me because it was too distracting. I hate having people observing me; I want to swat them away like a swarm of flies. My office door remained firmly closed.”

On attending the collections:

“Sometimes I think I’m the last remaining person who goes to the shows for the pleasure of seeing the clothes, rather than desperately wanting to be there for the social side – which is the part I always had to be dragged to, kicking and screaming.”

“I used to see every show in the New York collections, but these days I’m much more selective, partly because the experience has become so trying… As you dodge the movie cameras on your way in, there is usually some starlet of the moment surrounded by photographers and planted in the middle of the runway, hindering everyone else from getting to their seats. I can’t stand it, so I usually put the blinkers on and rush straight through.”

On her legacy:

“For me, one of the most important aspects of my life work is to give people something to dream about, just as I used to dream all those years ago as a child looking at beautiful photographs. I still weave dreams, finding inspiration wherever I can and looking for romance in the real, not the digital, world.”

One last thing, if you’re not familiar with Grace’s incredible body of work, Google Grace Coddington Vogue editorials and breathe it all in.

You can also buy Phaidon’s incredible book Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue here.

Beyoncé and the power of the female introvert

People

After watching Beyoncé’s performance at the 2016 MTV VMA’s I was once again reminded of the power that creatives hold to communicate important messages and sway public perceptions.

In a breathtakingly impressive 16 minute performance, Beyoncé was able to convey the absolute importance of self-worth, equality, and community.

A self-professed introvert (as a child), it is entirely possible Beyoncé no longer describes herself as such. After all, introversion is just one facet of a personality that develops as we grow older. However, Beyoncé has also been described by others in recent years as ‘genuinely quiet’, ‘shy’, and ‘softly-spoken’. In interviews, her responses to questions are articulate, measured, and genuine. These are some of the hallmarks of the introvert, so can we presume this is still the case?

There’s a quote attributed to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, where she states;

“Women who are naturally quiet feel as if they can’t be feminists or be powerful because of it. We really need to undo that perception.”

Women and girls of color face even more challenges to knocking down that perception. I recommend reading Educator and Administrator Kelly Wickham Hurst’s article for Quiet Revolution entitled ‘Quiet Black Girls—and How We Fail Them’ which gives some insight as to the particular challenges quiet girls of color face in the classroom.

It’s my view that popular culture has become more important than ever in changing the discourse. Creative output by performers, artists, filmmakers, and writers have the ability to open minds, ignite long-overdue or suppressed conversations, change political climates and challenge stereotypes.

This is why women like Beyoncé Knowles-Carter are so important. Not only is she important to women everywhere who still find it difficult to claim their space in a world that makes it damn hard to do so, but her importance to girls and women of color cannot be understated.

These are my initial thoughts after the VMA’s. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Who are the new introverted influencers?

Interviews, People

Who are the ‘new’ introverted influencers that have recently informed our culture? This new breed of influencer is happy to admit they are introverted, and such is the omnipresent nature of the media industry, they have more reach and influence than ever. It is heartening to see introversion discussed in the context of very public lives and in mainstream media.

Read through the list, and let me know your thoughts. Any surprises?

Amy Schumer
“My last job was sorting mail. I worked in an office building and I would get two bags of mail and I would put them in the right mailboxes for people in the office. I’m an introvert, believe it or not, so I liked this just because I didn’t have to talk to anybody,” she says. “It was just me and the mail.” – Yen Magazine, 22 September 2015

Alessia Cara
On her song ‘Here’, which touches on introversion, “It’s based on a true story! I went to a party a year-and-a-half ago or two years ago, and I felt really uncomfortable. I didn’t realize why I was there or what I was doing there, or how to interact with people. Those things wouldn’t get out of my head, so the next day I had a studio session with a producer and we were just writing songs. I just thought we should write about it because it isn’t a topic that is touched upon too much. I thought we should just write a song about it.” Coup de Main Magazine, 16 July 2015

Kendrick Lamar
On being a role model. “It’s still a work in progress. Perfect example: Going out to the [Compton Christmas Parade, where he served as grand marshal] and seeing these kids’ eyes light up. I’m looking at them like, man, I was one of y’all before. The more I get to see it visually and hear their words, the more it helps me aspire to inspire. Every time I think about that, it gets me out of my own selfish ways. It’s not just for me. It’s for these kids out here that hang on to these words. They’re more dependent on me saying the next thing and seeing my face than I’m consumed with being an introvert.” The New York Times, December 29, 2015

Kendall Jenner
“Well, it’s not that I didn’t have that much to say – I just kept it to myself. When I think something, I don’t usually say it, which is fine. It’s more that I’m introverted. I never had anxiety about it. I knew it was part of who I am and I owned it.” People, February 16, 2016.

Dakota Fanning
“At first, I’m definitely more of an introverted person. I like to observe and get a feel for who people are and what a situation is like before opening up. I think I’m a little bit of both. My closest friends would probably say I’m crazy, but people might consider me shy. There’s a lot going on inside, but I’m not afraid. And, I’m definitely not shy.” Refinery 29, July 25, 2014

Tom Hardy
“I keep a small social circle. A very small social circle. I know how to have small talk at parties when I need to, but I’m much happier by myself.” He’s an introvert, he says, and it might be the least surprising bit of trivia about Tom Hardy. Better to observe people. “But you don’t judge,” he clarifies. Sharp Magazine, November 25, 2015.

Wendy Williams
“After I do this show and all the things the show entails, whether that’s staying after for interviews, or hosting a gala, or attending a gala, I go home. I mean, it’s a very glamorous life, and I love it, but I’m an introvert and I need this life to pull me out of my shell. I need private time in order to be out.” Refinery 29, December 15 2014

Emma Watson
“The truth is that I’m genuinely a shy, socially awkward, introverted person. At a big party, I’m like Bambie in the headlights. It’s too much stimulation for me, which is why I end up going to the bathroom! I need time outs! You’ve seen me at parties, Derek. I get anxious. I’m terrible at small talk and I have a ridiculously short attention span.” Wonderland, February 2014

Kit Harington

“I’m not a natural salesman. I’m not good at that. I’m kind of a bumbling English buffoon at times. I’ve always felt introverted in many ways, I think that’s why there was something [the producers] liked about me for Jon Snow.” Entertainment Weekly, May 5, 2016

Hozier
“It’s been a very steep learning curve. By nature I’m an awkward person, I’m a gangly introvert. I feel my duty is to make music. And then you get into this whole malarkey.” The Telegraph, November 30, 2014