Fire Island

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Neil Robertson stood atop his Viking longship, staring blankly into the distance. His shaggy face was flushed red with the heat of a thousand flaming torches, and the plume of his raven-winged helmet shook gently in the breeze. The men carrying these torches were raucous, drunk on joy and the whiskey they kept in their tunics. They gathered in a great incendiary ring around the longboat that clogged the night air with thick smoke. Some of the men, like Robertson, dressed as Vikings, while others came as women, Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers.

The crowd shouted up at their man, calling his name and pleading for him to do what they had all come to see. Robertson, however, remained impervious to their pleas. He stayed silent and seemed somewhere else in his mind. He was euphoric but also incredulous. He had waited 15 years for this moment. He had seen countless other men go before him, and it was now his turn.

The roars from the mob were getting louder. The torches heaved and swelled in a sea of fire, but Robertson held onto his time for just a second longer. He couldn’t let it finish.

Then he raised his ax. The noise stopped. Torches everywhere lowered. The air was bitter with paraffin and heavy with the crowd’s breath.

Neil Robertson, the Jarl, calls for silence. The guizers lower t,Neil Robertson, the Jarl, calls for silence. The guizers lower their torches in anticipation.picture: cheap formal dresses australiaThe Up Helly Aa festival is celebrated on the last Tuesday of January every year in Lerwick, the capital city of Shetland, a sub-Arctic archipelago of Scotland that lies some 100 miles northeast of the Scottish mainland. It is Europe’s largest fire festival and includes vibrant, boisterous processions, with up to a thousand participants dressed in elaborate disguises. Although the Viking element of the festival is particularly marked, it is, in fact, a relatively modern celebration. It signals the close of the Yule season and was born out of the unruly end-of-year revelry that occurred on the islands at the beginning of the 19th century. Indeed, Up Helly Aa is old Norse for the end of the holidays.

I first heard of the Up Helly Aa from my grandfather, an ex-fisherman who used to work off the Shetland coast. He told me many tales of the islands: of barnacled, hard-drinking fishermen; hulking Nordic farmhands; and violent, evil seas. He spun yarns of the Vikings and the torchbearers known as guizers who warded off the grim darkness and the drinking that killed the cold. Most of these stories, knowing my grandfather, were either greatly exaggerated or made up, but his enthusiasm for them made me want to go and see for myself. I wanted to see the fire and the Vikings, but more importantly I wanted to visit the islanders who had animated his tales.

I landed at Sumburgh, Shetland’s main airport, a few days before the festival. From there I was to drive to Lerwick, where I had organized to meet up with some of the event’s participants. As I made my way from the airport, the sea was as gray and as smooth as slate. Hills rolled gently to the edge of vertiginous cliffs, and blanket bogs wallowed in the valleys. Occasionally, I saw a small hamlet populated with squat, whitewashed houses. There were flocks of sodden sheep and lone cows staring disinterestedly out to sea. But, there were no trees, only clumps of rough, brownish grass and soggy heather. The wind blew hard, and it rained thick, heavy rain.

Shetland was inhabited as early as 3000 B.C., invaded by the Vikings in 800 A.D. and annexed by the Scots in 1471 as part of the dowry for a Danish princess. For much of the 16th and 17th centuries, the islands traded their goods through Hanseatic merchants from Germany and, although officially Scottish, maintained a culture distinct from that of the mainland. In 1707, with the signing of the union between England and Scotland, the islands became officially British, and the Hanseatic traders were kicked out. Slowly, and perhaps not always willingly, Shetland became part of the British state.

When I reached Lerwick, the wind and rain had not dissipated; a howling North Sea gale whipped down the waterfront, and water dribbled and dripped from the window ledges of the 18th-century sandstone houses that lined the esplanade. The harbor was full of large trawlers unloading their catches and fishermen dressed in oily yellow overalls shouting inaudibly at one another across the wind. Dockworkers slid boxes of white fish across the harbor floor into large corrugated iron sheds. Local buyers contemplated the boxes with furrowed brows and worn clipboards while weary sea captains accepted whatever price.

I met Steve Henry, a local builder and regular attendee of Up Helly Aa, at his house in Lerwick’s New Town. Henry moved quickly and spoke even faster. His accent was thick, but his tone, as it is in the Shetlands, was melodic. He used local words like peerie (small) and muckle (big) and maintained a boyishly enthusiastic grin as we spoke. Pressed for time, he invited me to watch a performance he and his friends were preparing for the festival at the local high school.

He spun yarns of the Vikings and the torchbearers known as guizers that warded off the grim darkness and the drinking that killed the cold.

Some 10 minutes later I was seated in a small gymnasium, watching 20 or so ninjas dance around four Ninja Turtles. Men and boys of all sizes swung and twisted to pop music while a local woman yelled out instructions. I was confused. Where were the Vikings?

Henry told me that it was complicated and that there were many aspects of the festival that had been obscured by the Viking-obsessed press. First of all, these men formed part of what is known as a squad. There are 47 squads in total. Some of them are decades old while other are new to the festival that year. The only fixed rule is that to be a part of one you have to have been born on the islands or have lived there for five years. “Every year each squad dresses up as belly dancers, rock stars, penguins—or whatever takes their fancy—to take part in the festival,” Henry told me.

For the squads, the festival itself is split into two major parts. First is the torch procession in which participants known as guizers march through Lerwick’s streets with torches, and second is the afterparty. In this part, each of the 47 squads sets off around the town to a total of 11 venues, known as halls, where they drink, dance, and perform skits about island life. This skit is what the men were practicing in their ninja costumes.

“Each Up Helly Aa, there is only ever one squad who can dress as Vikings,” Henry said, “and these guys are the main event of the festival and have different responsibilities.”

The squad that gets to be Vikings on any given year is called the Jarl Squad and is led by its ax-brandishing boss, the Guizer Jarl. Guizer Jarls are all members of the 15-seat Up Helly Aa committee. Members are elected by their fellow guizers every October but must wait 15 years for their turn as the Guizer Jarl.

“It’s a big job, and the 15-year wait to be a Jarl is a long one,” said Stephen Grant, who performed the role in 2013. “I was elected to the committee in 1998 and had to wait until 2013 until it was my turn.”

I met Grant in the gymnasium during the practice. Two years ago he led this squad of present-day ninjas through Lerwick’s streets as riotous Vikings. Back in a standard squad he reflected on the rigours and pleasures of being on the festival’s center stage.

“Preparation for the Jarl Squad takes place two years before its allotted year. You have to speak to the Jarl squads before you, to make sure that you don’t come up with the same design for the costumes,” he says.

Unlike the majority of squads, whose costumes are bought hurriedly before the start of the festival, the preparation for the Jarl Squad’s outfits is meticulous. The Guizer Jarl creates the look of his squad, from the type of helmets his men wear to the color of their kirtles. Then, over the course of a year or so, the members meet up several nights a week to make these garments. Grant estimated that his squad’s suits cost some 1,700 pounds ($2,600) per person, all of it self-funded.

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Victoria Beckham: How Her Line of 10 Dresses Became a Fashion Empire

When I first met Victoria Beckham, two decades ago, the world had never heard of the Spice Girls. She and her bandmates stormed into my office at a U.K. TV network and gave a jaw-dropping rendition of ”Wannabe.” Although not as bold as her Spice peers—everyone else jumped up on the desks—Victoria was the one who assured me they were going to make it. ”We’re not going to stop till it happens,” she said.

They became, of course, a global phenomenon. And the world got to know Posh Spice, a camera-ready superstar who married an equally famous and sexy Brit, David Beckham (they met after one of his soccer games). After the Spice Girls—amicably—went their separate ways, Beckham had a brief solo career but decided to devote most of her time to being a mom. Then in 2008, after working with a sunglasses company and a denim brand (and even modeling on a Milan runway), she made the bold decision to launch her own fashion line.

Just your average career change? Hardly. The fashion world is not particularly kind to celebrities who decide they want to become designers. Beckham debuted her collection in the quietest, humblest way possible: in a small hotel room with intimate one-on-ones with the press, placing the emphasis on her clothes, not her celebrity. It was a smart, smart tactic. ”We have met with many celebrities who aspire to get into fashion, but very few have been willing to commit the time and energy it takes,” says Jim Gold, president and chief merchandising officer of the Neiman Marcus Group.

victoria-beckhampicture: celebrity dresses”Victoria was different. There are no shortcuts in this business, and she was willing to roll up her sleeves.” Her hard work and meticulous design have turned that first collection of 10 dresses into a fashion empire worth a reported $57 million. The silhouettes of her collections are so classic and flattering that just about every celeb in Hollywood—from Oprah to Jennifer Lawrence—has a VB dress in her closet. The label has won the respect of industry insiders too: She’s been awarded multiple British Fashion Awards, including two for brand of the year.

Beckham’s gift is to make clothes that women want to wear. ”Women respond to her clothes because she lives a life that they understand,” says friend and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. ”She’s an incredibly busy woman, she’s the mother of four kids, she’s very much a partner to David, and the clothes recognize that. She’s making clothes for women who are working, traveling, balancing, juggling all sorts of things at the same time.” She tries to teach her children, sons Brooklyn, Romeo, and Cruz and daughter Harper, some of what she’s learned: ”Nothing ever came naturally to me,” she says. ”I was never the cleverest, never best at anything. But we always tell our children that if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can do what you want.”

And she’s showing them that when you’re successful, you give back—period. In 2014 Beckham became an international goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS and since then she has raised more than $4 million to benefit HIV and AIDS charities including AMFAR, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Mothers 2 Mothers. ”Motherhood puts us all on one level,” she says. ”I just felt this real pull to help.” She doesn’t simply lend her name or write a check: She’s visited clinics in South Africa and Ethiopia to meet women affected by the disease. ”Victoria’s helping us to reach those millions of people out there we cannot reach,” says Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS. ”She’s a person of compassion, and she’s opening new doors.”

Fellow bandmate Melanie Brown (a.k.a. Scary Spice) is not surprised in the least by her friend’s successes. ”She’s broken the mold,” she says. ”And she’s the funniest, naughtiest, dirtiest pal to sit next to at dinner.” (Admits Beckham: ”I like to ring the tequila bell.”)

Indeed, when I see Beckham these days, what strikes me is the newfound ease with which she juggles her many roles. But her mission, she says, has never really changed: ”I did have to find myself and my confidence. And I want to make other women feel like the best version of themselves. That’s the same message as the Spice Girls. It’s still Girl Power.”

HER WORDS TO LIVE BY: ”Work hard, stay focused, be appreciative, and really, really go for it. I was told I couldn’t do lots of things, so if I can do it, you can.”=

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Spectre chic: how skeletons became 2015’s favourite Halloween outfit

Amid the troubling news that a dearth of pumpkins is threatening celebrations this year, it’s heartening to hear that we are still embracing Halloween – in the more traditional, dressing-up sense.

And, for the first time, womenswear (if anything involving nylon and taffeta deserves the name) is outselling childrenswear. Maybe that’s because Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, and more people are going out partying.

According, sales of women’s costumes are well above those for children. “This year, the ladies’ range has been a massive success,” says a spokesperson. Eight of the top 10 costumes were bought by women, while last year, all 10 were for children).

Sales of Zombie-themed items have rocketed – possibly due to the popularity of The Walking Dead, one of the biggest TV series in the world (and the second most illegally downloaded TV shows after Game of Thrones). But the bestseller on very.co.uk? A skeleton costume for women.

Skeletons are, of course, super-trad. Blame Spectre, with its opening scene, set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, and whose timely, late-October release may have contributed to an increased interest in traditional Mexican outfits. Ebay says the film may have contributed to a 234% increase in DOTD costume sales.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in the new film, Spectre.picture: red carpet dressesEmilio Pucci show, autumn/winter 2015, Milan Fashion Week.

In fashion circles, skeletons make aesthetic sense (not in the way you might think): monochrome is a perennial colour scheme, and a fixture in current season Emilio Pucci and Valentino.

Then there’s the make-up. Corpse-face make-up might not feel terribly accessible, but pallid faces in the spirit of Victoriana were ten-a-penny at Alexander McQueen. Of all the Halloween looks, this is the one that will accentuate your cheekbones – and accentuating cheekbones is the main hobby of the selfie generation; this arguably predated contouring. No wonder last Halloween, Queen of Kontouring, Kim Kardashian, dressed up as a skeleton.

H&M rolled out a long-sleeved skeleton T-shirt that sold out after a few weeks – it has even brought out a new style in its wake. ASOS’s Halloween collection, which also features an extensive line of bone-themed pieces, sold out weeks after its September launch.

Halloween outfits may have originated as part of Samhain, a Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest, where Celts would dress up as evil spirits in an attempt to blend in with, and thus stay safe from, “wandering souls” .

Ahead of the trend: Kim Kardashian dresses up for 2014 Halloween celebrations.

In light of the backlash surrounding boundary-pushing, politically incorrect costumes (not to mention the commodification of a traditional and largely US custom), this is positive news. The trend for offensive costumes – from Ebola nurse to Cecil the Lion’s dentist – might be on the increase, but there’s something comforting about a renewed interest in traditionally creepy costumes.

Ebay have also seen a sharp drop in ‘Mean Girls’ costumes (the 00s film parodied the way teenagers wear Halloween costumes) with 60% of Brits eschewing “sexy’ in favour of scary. Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie’s jester-inspired character in Suicide Squad is currently the most searched-for costume on Google – Lyst, an ecommerce aggregator platform, counts 70,000 searches in the last month – suggesting popular culture is as powerful as ever.

Unfortunately, cultural appropriation continues apace. According to the same research, searches for Pocahontas’ suede outfit have increased by 256% in the last month. Some trends, it seems, never die.

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Students take home costumes from Theatre UCF stage

According to Google’s Frightgiest, a website that lets users see the most popular Halloween costumes in their geographic area, Star Wars and superhero costumes are the talk of the town in Orlando.

But for individuals hoping to stand out from the crowd, Theatre UCF’s eighth annual Halloween costume sale offered an array of one-of-a-kind ensembles.

On Friday Oct. 23, students rifled through row after row of costumes of all shapes and sizes to find the perfect festive outfit. The annual sale is run by the department’s costume shop, which is dedicated to teaching students how to make costumes for their productions.

The shop organizes the sale to get rid of old costumes it will no longer use and raise funds for the theatre’s budget so new costumes can be made. The items available for purchase are selected from the department’s collection of thousands of old pieces based on a variety of factors, including how specialized the costumes are, whether there are multiple copies of a certain costume and the condition of the costume.

“Some of them are falling apart so much that they would last one night for Halloween, but wouldn’t last the physical demands of an entire show,” said Dan Jones, the costume shop manager.

At this year’s sale, sequins, feathers and ribbons abounded as students searched through over 5,000 individual pieces for the perfect spooky outfit.

The Future compiled a list of the top five coolest costumes that students snatched up.

Costume Salepicture: semi formal dressesDan Jones, the costume shop manager, and Emily Wille, the costume workroom supervisor, count up purchases at Theatre UCF’s Halloween Costume Sale on Friday, Oct. 23. Deanna Ferrante, Central Florida Future

1. The Lizard Man

One of the most extravagant costumes for sale was the Lizard Man from the school’s production of Sideshow. The whole outfit was handcrafted by one of UCF’s theatre professors, Huaixiang Tan.

It took weeks just to make the head, which had to be sculpted in clay, plastered in a cast, molded and painted. Then, the entire bodysuit was sewed together from scratch.

The result was a terrifying, shimmering monster that almost every student that walked by stopped to admire.

2. The Big Bad Wolf and the Eagle

These two headdresses were created for a dance concert in 2013. The costume shop has designed outfits for these concerts since 2007.

It’s hard to reuse costumes from dance concerts, said Jones, because they are often designed specifically for a certain musical number.

But, that doesn’t mean these costumes can’t find good homes after the dancing comes to an end.

Michaela Dougherty, the junior theatre studies major who bought the two pieces, said she’s going to dress up as a vintage big bad wolf for the holiday.

“I go more with comedic rather than sexy on Halloween,” she said.

3. The Wallaby Wonder

A year ago, the shop received an entire fur-mascot donation of a larger-than-life-size wallaby from Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital.

The mascot, which came in six pieces—head, torso, legs, tail and two feet—, was dressed in blue scrubs and giant white sneakers.

Jones said the costume has been sitting in the storeroom, untouched, because the chances of the department needing a giant wallaby mascot were pretty slim.

But, the big guy did draw in fans at the sale, and guests stopped to pose for pictures with the mascot’s disembodied head.

4. The Bridal Procession

The school gets lot of donations of wedding dresses, usually dresses from the 1980s and 90s, which Jones said they don’t get a lot of call for.

A few years ago, the department even received the stock of an entire bridal store that went out of business.

They keep any they think they might use, but the rest go right into the sale, where many students eagerly gave them new homes.

5. Hats Galore

No outfit is complete without the perfect hat, and the costume sale was full of a variety of different headgear. There were clown wigs, sea captain hats, a medusa wig and some very popular blue sequined pieces with a lot of Middle Eastern character.

These hats were used by background dancers for one of the musical numbers inSideshow. The dancer’s dresses could be used again, but the hats were too specific to the show, and thus, were put out to find new dancers with heads needing adorning.

Jones said that when it comes to hats, the department has trouble reusing them.

“We don’t have a lot of room for hat storage. They get smashed and are no longer useable. It’s easier for us to make new ones,” he said.

That’s the whole reason those in the department decide to sell these costumes, even though it can be painful to let go of something they’ve worked so hard to create.

“It’s always a little bit emotional. You’re literally putting your blood, sweat and tears into it,” Jones said. “But, it’s nice to know what you’ve worked on is having another life.”

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I Tried 8 Ways To Go Braless When You Have Big Boobs & This Is What Happened

I think that I’ve managed to go braless with big boobs maybe three times in my life. My ta-tas have never been what you might consider small — a C cup on a 12-year-old meant I was pretty massive compared to my peers, and as a fabulous F-cupped adult, the twins have shown no signs of going anywhere. I used to be ashamed of the size of my jugs, keeping them covered and ignoring the potential power of my own cleavage. But my New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to get my tits out more. In doing so, I’ve learned to love my ladies (and I’ve also learned about a million different euphemisms for the word ”breast”).

There’s been one final step I’ve wanted to take when it comes to my self love-orientated breast journey, though: Going braless. When I get home after having been out in the world, the first thing I do — of course — is whip my bra off, and I’m perfectly comfortable with the feeling of my nipples grazing my knees. My big breasts often happily sway away when I’m sat in the comfort of my own apartment, but in the outside world, well, there’s a mainstream demand for perkiness that I haven’t been comfortable ignoring just yet.

This summer, Bustle’s Erin McKelle Fischer wrote a piece entitled ”8 Ways To Go Braless When You Have Large Boobs Because Bras Aren’t Mandatory For Everyone,” and I’ve since wondered whether any of them would actually work IRL. So I decided to give all the hacks a test run, because bras really aren’t mandatory for everyone and I’d love to someday stop feeling like they’re mandatory for me.

This look was definitely the one I felt most comfortable in, likely because my breasts were hidden underneath so many layers, which meant my boobs weren’t noticeable at all. However, I think if you were wearing this in the winter (because what unnatural ice queen would wear it in the summer?), the addition of a bra would serve as an added layer of armor against the cold. Either way, nobody’s going to see your nips when you’re wearing four layers of clothing.

picture: evening dresses adelaideThis top is usually one of my favorites because the shape really emphasizes my cleavage when I’m wearing a bra. Sans bra, it just emphasizes my lack of natural cleavage. Personally, I’m not really sure if it’d be comfortable enough to sport outside of my bedroom.

As McKelle Fischer noted, wearing a dress with a slip and without a bra means you can’t really see the shape of the person’s body. Unfortunately, that’s kind of my issue with wearing this. I want to see my body and I want to show off how damn good the shape of that body is. I wore this outfit out recently with a bra, and felt much more fabulous.

If hiding the shape of your body so people don’t know you’re not wearing a bra sounds like your jam, then wearing a slip without a bra will definitely help you achieve that look effortlessly. It’s just not what I personally want from an outfit.

The success of this look will completely depend on the type of crop top you’re wearing. A loose fit left a whole lot of under-boob on show, which as a big breasted babe I’m just not comfortable with. My tight velvet crop top, however, held my breasts in place with no problems.

I feel that without a bra, this style of shirt just emphasized how braless I was, rather than covering up the fact. In her article, McKelle Fischer suggested wearing a camisole underneath clothing, but I wouldn’t ever really want to do that with an adorable cami top like this one. That being said, I definitely see how the addition of a layer (a longline vest, perhaps?) would cover the nips and keep my braless-ness a secret.

Similar to the crop top situation, your choice of bralette will totally influence whether or not you can easily go braless underneath. I definitely think where you’re wearing said bralette should decide whether or not you go braless route, though. With Bralette No. 1, I would only ever wear the look on a night out. But jumping around braless is usually not a painless option for big breasted people. Bralette No. 2, on the other hand, is a more daytime-appropriate piece. Due to the shape, I’d feel totally comfortable being braless out and about in it on a warmer autumnal day.

I only really own one sweater, mainly because I hate how shapeless I feel when wearing them. But that’s the benefit of going braless under a jumper: The shapelessness will be your friend and a ticket to a comfy, casual look. That being said, if it’s cold enough for me to don my only sweater, then it’s probably cold enough that I’d need to wear two bras just for the warmth factor.

McKelle Fischer’s final tip for going braless with big ta-tas is to just say ”eff it.” ”If you don’t care who sees your boobs, rock whatever kind of top you want,” she wrote. My insecurities with my breasts have lasted a long time, so maybe my New Year’s resolution this year will be to attempt braless-ness more often. After all, anyone who expects big boobs on a plus size gal to be perky has probably never actually seen tits in real life before.

When it comes down to it, some of these styling tips definitely work while others are pretty dependent on other factors (like your destination, your personal style, and how comfortable you are with under-boob visibility). If you’re happy to sacrifice some curve-showcasing for comfort, some of the more shapeless styles will definitely assist you in going braless. If you’re not, however, then maybe it’s not time to let go of the trusty over the shoulder boulder holder just yet.

Either way, I’m glad I have a couple of outfit inspirations for the next time I need to run errands and just can’t be bothered to hoist my boobies into a bra for it.

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Hansen: Tale of Omaha’s ‘black widow’ is too tempting to not investigate

This is too good to be true, I think as I stare giddily at the sheet of paper clutched in my grubby columnist’s hands.

I hold a Wall Street Journal review of a new book on infamous Wall Street trader Jesse Livermore, who made and lost several fortunes before going bust for good during the Great Depression. But Livermore doesn’t much interest me at the moment. The reason for my giddiness: a single paragraph about Livermore’s wife that an eagle-eyed reader had helpfully highlighted and sent to my boss.

That paragraph: Livermore’s “third wife, Harriet Metz Noble, was a concert singer from Omaha, Nebraska; her four previous husbands had all committed suicide. Investigators determined there was no ‘common thread’ to the deaths. ‘It appears to be fate and bad luck,’ Mr. Rubython says.”

What the …? I think.

This is too good to be true, I think. Then I think something else.

I’m all over this.

And why not? This is a story that stars a long-ago socialite from the Metz family, which made a fortune in breweries and built the Omaha mansions to prove it. Maybe it’s a story about how this singer and socialite, Harriet, married many times, and every single time her husband’s death was ruled a suicide.

Maybe it’s an untold story of money and Metz beer and marriage and murder in early 20th century Omaha. Maybe it’s a story about our very own “black widow.”

“Sure, I remember her!” says Dr. John Davis. “She used to show up at family dinners in all this jewelry, very fancy dresses. She was glamorous, almost a showgirl or a movie star to us. That was Aunt Harriet.”

I visit Davis, a Metz heir who is now 93, at his west Omaha home, figuring he will throw cold water all over this wild black widow speculation.

picture: red carpet dressesInstead, he actually shrugs when I broach the subject. Yes, he remembers Aunt Harriet, who was 28 and already a well-known singer and socialite the year he was born. Yes, he remembers the rumors about Aunt Harriet. And, yes, it seems like quite the coincidence that all her mates allegedly met the same fate.

Four husbands and four suicides, according to this recent Livermore biography. And that would make Livermore No. 5, Davis thinks: He committed suicide in 1940.

“I never thought she was capable of murder,” Davis says, “but I have no idea how all those husbands died.”

When Davis was a boy, he traveled with his parents to New York, to the home that Aunt Harriet then shared with her husband Livermore, the Wall Street legend.

He remembers that visit like it was yesterday: the Manhattan penthouse apartment; the chauffeurs and fancy cars; the Broadway shows and a level of opulence several notches above anything the Nebraska boy had seen.

He remembers being there on May 4, 1935, the day they gathered around Livermore’s radio to listen to the Kentucky Derby. A horse named Omaha won that day (he would go on to win the Triple Crown), and Livermore was ecstatic because he had bet on the horse named after his wife’s hometown.

“He said something like ‘Harriet, you can buy yourself a new mink coat tomorrow.’ I never forgot that.”

But the truth is Davis can’t really remember all of his Aunt Harriet’s husbands, or even how many she had for sure. This happened when he was a boy. “We kind of lost touch with her,” he says.

So I call Tom Rubython, the British journalist who wrote the new Livermore biography, to confirm some basic facts about the lives, marriage and tragic ending of Jesse Livermore and his wife Harriet Metz.

They met in 1931 in Vienna, when Metz, Omaha singer and socialite, was performing at a concert hall and Livermore happened to be in the audience. A mutual friend introduced the two Americans after the show.

Both the 38-year-old singer and the 54-year-old Wall Street legend had seen better days.

Harriet was recently widowed. Her husband, New Yorker Arthur Warren Noble, had “ended his life by hanging” in 1930, The World-Herald reported, after losing his savings during the stock market crash of 1929.

Livermore was in the midst of a scandalous split from his second wife, a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl. He was secretly struggling financially, too. He had made a staggering $100 million — that’s more than $1.5 billion in today’s dollars — by shorting the stock market before the 1929 crash, but had somehow already squandered much of that fortune.

We don’t know if it was their shared struggles that brought them together, but we do know this: They were married in a small private ceremony in Chicago on March 23, 1933. They then traveled to Omaha to meet the Metz family and attend the 70th birthday party of Fred Metz, Harriet’s father.

Then they settled into a gargantuan Park Avenue apartment to live not-so-happily ever after.

In the following years, Livermore was sued by his Russian mistress. His ex-wife shot his adult son. One day, he simply disappeared, leading Harriet to call the police and the police to believe he had been kidnapped. Then, 26 hours later, he reappeared without public explanation.

And by the mid-1930s he had lost almost every last cent of his vast fortune. In the last years of their marriage, the author says, it was very likely that the still-opulent life of Jesse Livermore and Harriet Metz was funded by Harriet’s Omaha beer inheritance.

In 1940, reportedly suffering from clinical depression, the famed stock speculator shot himself in the cloakroom of a Manhattan hotel. He left a note addressed to “Nina,” his pet name for Harriet.

“So, that was her fifth husband who committed suicide?” I ask the author.

“That fact sort of dominates, doesn’t it?” Rubython says. “I can’t imagine what the police would do today.”

Except, upon further questioning, it becomes clear that the author doesn’t know the names of Harriet’s other husbands. He doesn’t know much about her life before or after her time with Livermore. And why should he? He is an expert on Livermore, not on Metz.

The related questions hang there, so tantalizingly close and yet just out of my grasp. Did Harriet Metz’s first five husbands really commit suicide? And if so, how did she manage to avoid a courtroom?

Finally I do something I should have done weeks earlier. I email the Douglas County Historical Society.

The reply from researcher Max Sparber lands in my email inbox a few days later. I giddily click it open.

Then I curse several times in a manner unsuitable for an office environment.

The stories about Harriet Metz Noble seemed too good to be true. That’s because they are.

Harriet Metz Noble’s first four or five husbands didn’t all kill themselves, contrary to the information found in at least two Livermore biographies as well as on the ever-reliable Wikipedia.

Harriet wasn’t even married four times before she married Livermore, Sparber writes in his first email to me.

The truth: Harriet’s first husband, William Schnorr, died of pneumonia years after Harriet divorced him after alleging physical abuse.

Her second husband, Noble, did commit suicide. So did her third husband, Livermore.

And her fourth and final husband, an Italian aristocrat named Alexander de Rostaing, whom she married and divorced, appears to have actually outlived Harriet.

So, if you are keeping score at home, that’s actually two divorces and two husbands who committed suicide. That’s not the stuff of legend. That’s the stuff of tragedy.

Harriet Metz Noble died in Pasadena, California, in January 1967. She was a woman who lived a big life — European singing tours, four marriages, a decade spent with a famous stock trader in a Manhattan penthouse apartment — and then died fairly poor, according to her family.

She was not and is not Omaha’s Black Widow. She’s a woman buried in the Metz family plot in Omaha’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, hopefully blissfully unaware that her reputation has been besmirched by two books, the Internet and muckraking reporters like me decades after her death.

“Fine job,” the author Rubython says when I call him back and give him the real story. He then promises to correct the record on Harriet in the paperback edition.

So, case closed … except what is this about Harriet’s final husband being an Italian aristocrat?

Yessir, says John Davis when I ask about Alexander de Rostaing. He remembers Aunt Harriet’s final husband. Didn’t ever meet him, that he can remember, but he does recall a story his mother told about “The Count.”

The story goes like this: At the end of Harriet Metz Noble’s life, Harriet’s nurse believed that ex-husband Rostaing was intent on taking what she had left. The nurse called the Metz family — called John Davis’ own mother, in fact — and alleged that Rostaing may or may not be poisoning Harriet. Several weeks later, Harriet died.

So, no, John Davis doesn’t think that Harriet Metz ever murdered any of her husbands. But he does suspect that her final ex-husband may have murdered her.

“My mom actually went out there to check on Harriet” before she died, Davis says. “She never did figure it out.”

So maybe this is an untold story of money and Metz beer and marriage and murder after all. And maybe this story involves a scheming Italian aristocrat! And maybe I can be the one to solve the murder, maybe, maybe …

Wait a second, I think.

I’m sorry, Harriet, I think. And then I make a dead woman a promise.

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Smu patron reveals talent for fashion illustration

Tucked inside the Hamon Arts Library is a collection of intricate fashion illustrations by one of SMU’s most noted benefactors. Colorful drawings of 1930s and 40s dresses, accessories and hats line the walls of the Mildred Hawn Gallery and provide a peek into the imagination of the library’s premier patron.

Nancy B. Hamon’s fashion design sketches (circ. 1933-42) will be on display in the Hamon Arts Library now through Dec. 13. The exhibition, curated by Meadows archivist Emily George Grubbs includes some of the 33 total drawings that are part of the Jake and Nancy Hamon Papers in the Meadows archive.

Hamon donated $5 million to the Meadows School in 1988 for the construction of the library, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall. The drawings serve as a small window into her world, and allow SMU students to find common ground with one of Dallas’ elite benefactors.

Meadows costume design professor Claudia Stephens finds the collection to be a more approachable legacy than any monetary contribution.

“This is a very concrete gift and memory, and gives you an understanding of the person that you don’t get by the announcement at a big occasion,” Stephens said.

However, Hamon’s designs aren’t on display simply because of her contribution to SMU. Her talent for art is clear and her enthusiasm for style is legendary.

nh_2012_01_p011.jpgpicture: cheap formal dresses online“It’s obvious that she was very interested in fashion and the arts from a young age, and that turned into a passion later in life,” Grubbs said.

The sketches, done during Hamon’s teens and early twenties, include imaginative dresses, accessories and beauty looks.

“It’s fun, and it’s always nice to see the artist’s sketchbook stuff, to see where they’re coming from,” Stephens said.

Hamon’s period of inspiration, the 1930s and early 40s, is something that makes her drawings particularly interesting. America’s Great Depression and reduced access to European fashion houses restricted women of the day.

“They were going into the war and then coming out of the war,” Stephens said. “So there’s a limited amount to look at.”

The sketches are also an example of Hamon’s skill with watercolor and tempera paint. Based on the quality of her work, Stephens believes Hamon likely received lessons in illustration.

“There must be other sketches where they’re not as good, whether we have those or not,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ graduate students of costume design visited the collection this semester and noted the precision of Hamon’s work.

“She knows exactly what she wants it to look like, I think,” graduate student Hunter Dowell said. “Or she’s seen it and she’s mimicking it quite well.”

Hamon’s desire to test new styles is clear, not just with her designs, but also as she plays with elements like makeup, eyebrows and hairstyles.

“You can see that she’s kind of experimenting,” Stephens said.

At the center of Hamon’s evening gowns and imaginative dresses, sits a sketch of a casual ensemble featuring a knee-length black skirt and red collared blouse.

“It’s surprising amidst all of these gowns,” graduate student Mari Taylor said.

The black-haired girl in the same sketch, Grubbs said, may have been modeled after Hamon herself.

“You start off by drawing yourself anyway, that’s just what you see everyday,” Stephens explained.

Hamon studied paleontology at The University of Texas, and she later worked as an actress in several 1940s films, before returning to Texas in 1949. She was known for throwing lavish theme parties with her husband, oil man Jake L. Hamon Jr., many of which can be seen in photos on display at the exhibit.

“Everyone dressed up,” Grubbs said. “Everyone looked fabulous.”

In addition to her contribution to the Meadows School, Hamon also supported the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Zoo, Presbyterian Hospital and more. Hamon passed away in 2011 at the age of 92.

“She was just a wonderful, generous philanthropist,” Grubbs said

It’s unknown if any of the designs on display were later produced by Hamon, Grubbs said. It is clear however, that fashion and style fascinated Hamon throughout her life, and her talent leaves a lasting impression with visitors.

“It does make you want to know more, doesn’t it?” Stephens asked.

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The Affair’s Noah Solloway Is a Genuine TV Antihero Who’s No Hero at All

 

In his 2014 book Difficult Men, journalist Brett Martin identifies bad-boy antiheroes as the defining feature of our current ”Golden Age” of television. Tony Soprano, Don Draper and The Wire’s Omar Little dazzle with their multifaceted complexity: How deep the furrow in Tony’s troubled brow! How pensive the trail of smoke Don breathes out of his complicated mouth! How badass the scar etched across Omar’s brooding face!

Tony, Don, Omar and their ilk (you’re familiar with the list: Breaking Bad’s Walter White, The Shield’s Vic Mackey, Deadwood’s Al Swearengen, etc.) are indeed difficult. They are beholden to no one but themselves, even as they’re programmed to self-destruct. Yet these are extremely capable men, each with a genius that no one else around him seems to possess. Martin sees the characters in their creators, among them Davids Simon, Milch and Chase, each a singular figure whom he likens to ”a fireman setting blazes only he is capable of putting out, thus ensuring his own heroic indispensability.”

TV’s rottenest scoundrel had yet to hit the airwaves when Martin published his book, but he probably wouldn’t have been included alongside Tony, Don, et al., anyway. The Affair’s Noah Solloway, played, ironically, by Dominic West — who also portrayed Jimmy McNulty, one of those bad boys who ran rampant throughout The Wire — is a true antihero, a character with so little to redeem him that even the actor has had to admit that ”everyone hates Noah.”

In the first season of The Affair — the second is currently airing on Showtime — Noah, his wife, Helen (Maura Tierney, and their children spend the summer at Helen’s wealthy parents’ home in Montauk. There, Noah, a schoolteacher and novelist, meets Alison (Ruth Wilson), a Montauk native and married waitress, with whom he embarks upon an affair.

I mean, who could like this guy?picture: cheap formal dresses australiaThe Affair is about memory and perspective: Each episode is split into two halves, one telling the story from Noah’s point of view, the other from Alison’s. The second season adds two new perspectives to the mix, those of Helen and Alison’s husband, Cole (#TeamHelen, you guys). Helen and Cole (Joshua Jackson) both have ample reason to despise Noah, so much so that at this point it’s hard not to suspect that even the writers hate him. That Helen still harbors feelings for him is her worst trait; Noah is her weakness.

Right from the start, the show gives us little reason to sympathize with Noah. It’s easier to believe that Alison would stray: Her marriage is bound up in the death of the child she had with Cole. But Helen and Noah’s relationship feels healthy from the start. They have regular sex that they both seem to enjoy, four children and a well-appointed brownstone in Brooklyn (paid for by Helen’s parents, as they frequently remind Noah). Helen owns one of those big, bright stores filled with knickknacks (the kind of establishment that only survives on TV). In other words, the show doesn’t make excuses for Noah’s transgression.

Much has been written about the strange appeal of an unsympathetic protagonist. It takes chutzpah to put a murderer at the center of a TV show that is as much about family as it is about organized crime, or to introduce viewers to a benign science teacher with terminal cancer, only to morph him into the ultimate villain. But it’s possible to despise Tony Soprano and Walter White for their self-destructive drives and selfish urges and still admire their skills and smarts — their ”heroic indispensability,” as Martin would have it. Noah’s got all of the former but none of the latter.

The show’s Rashomon device suggests that The Affair is intended as an immersion in Noah’s detestability. Through his eyes, Alison is forever outfitted in short, flirty dresses, her eyes sparkling with playful energy. Through hers, she’s usually dressed more conservatively, and her expression is often melancholy and flat, an indication that she’s struggling to move beyond her traumatic past — a past that Noah seems to have little interest in understanding.

From Noah’s perspective, everyone comes across a little bit worse. His wife is a nag, his kids are a pain, his in-laws unbearable. Somehow even Noah himself comes off as selfish, reckless and thoughtless. Only Alison is a redeemable figure in his mind: his savior, an angelic figure who exists only to buoy his restless, Brooklyn-dad spirit.

I can’t help but notice that this antihero’s creator is not an ill-tempered David but a woman, Sarah Treem. It’s also hard to ignore that most of the series’ episodes to date have been written by women. (Treem co-created The Affair with penis possessor Hagai Levi, but he hasn’t written an episode since the pilot.) Some of the most exciting new series of the past year have come from women: Jane the Virgin (Jennie Snyder Urman), Transparent (Jill Soloway) and UnREAL (Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro). Half of Amazon’s new pilots this season were created by women. And I don’t need to remind you that Shonda Rhimes, noted woman, basically owns NBC.

The Affair’s first season frustrated me: The storytelling device felt like a gimmick, and too often the series veered into melodrama. But now, particularly after the addition of Helen’s and Cole’s perspectives, I’m back on board, and beginning to suspect that Noah’s lack of redeemable qualities may be intentional. I don’t know if Treem, Levi and the writers truly despise Noah. But they don’t seem to be in a rush to bestow any magical, tortured-genius qualities on him (writing a decent novel doesn’t count — sorry, tortured-genius novelists!). And that’s pretty great.

Because maybe Noah is payback for the scourge of irresistible antiheroes moping through sexy midlife crises on our TV screens for the past 15 years — and maybe this is a sign of a wider shift in a landscape that already seems to be moving past the glorification of complicated assholes. Noah’s not one of the Difficult Men; he’s just a difficult man, and there’s nothing heroic about that.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Recap: Sorry I Said That Creepy Stuff Out Loud

Ohhh, we have a new little intro! This week’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend kicks off with a quick, animated rundown of the show’s premise. ”She’s so broken inside,” a cartoon sun sings about the titular crazy ex-girlfriend. ”That’s a sexist term,” Rebecca admonishes him. Speaking of exes, as we might have expected, Rebecca doesn’t have to wait long to meet Josh’s mysterious girlfriend, Valencia, this week, the one for whom he moved back to West Covina, Califoooooorniiaaaaaa. After a failed attempt to locate Josh at Spider’s, a local nightclub owned and/or named after a man named Mr. Spiders, Rebecca bids Paula goodnight and retires to her couch to eat chips and take medication alone. Oh yes, as anticipated, Paula and Rebecca are legit friends and still committed to spending time with Josh, despite Rebecca’s insistence that no, seriously, honestly, she swears to God, she did not move to town just to get Josh to fall in love with her, let’s get it straight. ”Are we still doing that?,” Paula asks, taken aback. ”Let me know when we can stop.” Here, here.

Dressed in her shabbiest sweats and most nonexistent bra, Rebecca makes a late-night deli run (tip of the hat to how many times Rebecca is genuinely disheveled, sweaty, or sporting raccoon-eye makeup this week. It’s nice to see a natural spectrum of looks, including Not Giving a Fuck) and stumbles upon Josh making out with the stunning, glamorous Valencia (Gabrielle Ruiz), who is the beautiful monster of Rebecca’s dreams. ”Why is Greg talking to a homeless?” Valencia sniffs upon spotting Rebecca for the first time. Oh yeah, Greg’s there too. Poor, sweet Greg. ”Hey, can we maybe have a post-mortem on the whole make-out crying session?” he asks Rebecca, who of course will have none of it. Get outta there, Greg! There is only ruin for you here! Rebecca might have sobbed into his mouth, but somehow that guy hasn’t given up hope.

Between her superior attitude and tight yoga body, Rebecca is IMMEDIATELY obsessed with Valencia. While at first I thought, ”Oh brother, of course Valencia has to be a bitch,” about 30 seconds into their first interaction, I realized that Valencia really did need to be a mean girl, or else there would be virtually no way for us to sympathize with the sweaty, overbearing weirdo Rebecca turns into around her. Rebecca’s chipper resolve immediately shifts into a stuttering hyperenthusiasm about Valencia’s body, her job, her body, her dress, HER BODY. ”Grassfully exeunt, pursued by a bear,” Rebecca blathers, kissing Valencia’s hand. It’s wonderfully unnerving. Rebecca thinks Valencia is NICE, for God’s sake, when in reality she is so malevolent, Josh begs Rebecca not to tell anyone about their teen relationship for fear that Valencia will flip out. Despite all the red flags in this situation, Rebecca convinces herself she and Valencia must be friends. Right now.

Much like her reasons for moving to West Covina, Califooooooorniaaaaaa, Rebecca is SOMEHOW also knee-deep in denial about her reasons for befriending Valencia. It’s an interesting choice to have your protagonist not understand her own motivations, but a tricky one to navigate. The nature of the conceit of the show requires that Rebecca not go full crazy and show up on Josh’s lawn sobbing in the rain two episodes in, but it feels like a real challenge to balance Rebecca’s lack of self-awareness against the show’s need for her to go slowly nuts in a variety of entertaining ways.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend -- picture: cheap formal dressesTo wit, Rebecca completely denies her obsession to Paula, but this time Paula isn’t buying into her bull. ”Women of equal sexual viability hate each other.” Paula explains. ”That is how it has worked since the day vaginas were invented.” Then again, how happy is Paula’s life that she’s giving out crackerjack female-friend advice like that? Oh, what’s that? Not happy at all? ”I always wanted a daughter. My kids aren’t daughters. They’re terrible,” Paula sighs. ”Mom, I stabbed Tommy, kinda,” Paula’s son informs her on the phone. ”Brendan, I told you I had to work late, figure it out,” Paula replies, eating crackers in the dark in her cubicle after hours. Clearly desperate for a friend, Paula even got Rebecca a little Statue of Liberty key chain, which makes it all the more depressing when Rebecca drops Paula like a fresh load of laundry to become Valencia’s bestie. ”Who wore it better? It’s like, who wore it equally?” Rebecca proclaims, dismissing Paula’s underhanded sabotage scheme in favor of a raw, desperate bid at actual friendship.

After Facebook-friending her and inviting herself to Valencia’s yoga class, an exercise-maddened Rebecca drifts into a musical-fantasy number, ”I’m So Good At Yoga.” I thought this song was the weaker of the night’s two (a liiiiittle on the nose with the Bollywood theme, right?), but the individual lines were gems. ”Butt stuff doesn’t hurt at all. Most times I prefer it,” Fantasy Valencia brags. ”I’m not afraid of clowns or trains.” Despite Valencia’s seemingly total lack of appealing qualities (she does not get jokes and drinks water from a box), Rebecca starts to model herself after her in all ways. Rebecca finds Valencia a space to start her own yoga studio. The two laugh and eat zero legumes, as recommended by Valencia’s blood therapist or whatever. Valencia reveals that she doesn’t get along with other girls, due to the fact she has amazing boobs and all her old friends were trolls. “We’re friends, right?” Valencia asks hopefully. Oh GIRL, no.

Rebecca is so incensed when Paula doubts the validity of her connection to Valencia that she almost blows a big client meeting. ”I have never met anyone who lies to themselves more than you,” Paula scolds. But of course, if Rebecca listened to reason, she wouldn’t be Rebecca, and we would not have this show. Excited and flattered by Valencia’s invitation to join her, Josh, and Greg at Spider’s/Spiders’ (they wear MATCHING METALLIC DRESSES, oh Lordy), Rebecca slips into something a little sexier with the evening’s winner, ”Feeling Kinda Naughty Tonight,” a sassy psychosexual pop number that’s basically ”I Kissed a Girl” if the full title were ”I Kissed a Girl, Then Harvested Her Skin Cells and Cloned a Pair of Her Lips and Had Them Surgically Grafted Onto My Face.” Rebecca’s girl crush is a little sexy, a lot covetous in the Buffalo Bill sense of the world. ”I want to cut the silky hair right off your head and slurp it up like spaghetti,” Fantasy Rebecca purrs. And really, who hasn’t obsessively checked their crush’s Instagram for photos of their girlfriend or boyfriend, stewing over all the physical attributes that must make them more gorgeous and lovable than you. The difference between you and Rebecca, of course, is your ability to tell discern the line between reality and fiction. Overcome with envy, friendship, and sexy grinding, Rebecca plants a kiss on Valencia. It’s okay, Rebecca explains. Valencia loves Josh and Josh loves Valencia and Josh and Rebecca used to be a thing. Josh and Valencia are mortified (”Why did you like me?” Valencia asks, genuinely, and reasonably, perturbed) and Greg is … well Greg insists on being a sweet, kind human beyond all reason. He offers to take Rebecca to get flapjacks AFTER this all happens! Greg is too good for this world. I hope he turns out to be a serial killer. Just kidding, I bet he’s genuinely a mensch.

Ending yet another day with public humiliation, Rebecca apologizes to Paula for being a dirt friend. Paula offers her own act of contrition: Team Rebecca T-shirts. ”If you ever need it, this T-shirt will always be there for you,” Paula says, before turning back to clarify. ”The T-shirt is me.” Aw, we know, Paula. We know.

You’d think at this point Rebecca would realize that she cannot stop embarrassing herself when it comes to Josh, and yet … Josh stops by her work and asks her to dinner the next day, apologizing for making her lie about their dating history. This guy keeps reeling us back in! I know some people were turned off by the show’s title or the general invocation of the ”crazy ex-girlfriend” trope in the premise, but I think this episode establishes that the show plans to leverage that conceit to poke fun at the legitimately crazy messages we receive, messages like, ”Romantic love is the only road to happiness,” or ”If only you were prettier/funner/cooler, the babe of your dreams will love you instead of her.” The tone is uneven, but the template is sound. Rebecca turns her back on her only actual friend and transforms herself into a sexy doppelganger of a woman she envies, only to have it blow up in her face. Her craziness is the means by which her character learns.

As for Josh, we sadly don’t get to see him actually eat dinner with Rebecca, so we don’t know what connection they actually have. But who knows? Maybe Josh has crazy romantic ideas of his own. Maybe Valencia, filterless B that she is, has a reason to be ”crazy” jealous of Josh. Maybe Greg has some crazy personality flaw, like his teeth are too white or his love too real and supportive.

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Women Who Dare: Susie Wolff

Silver bullet. Dress, Marc Jacobs. Shoes, Christian Louboutin. Hair: Dora Roberti for Bumble and Bumble; makeup: Jessica Mejia for Yves Saint Laurent Beauté; production: Sasha Rickerd. FASHION EDITOR: Camilla Pole.

Susie Wolff is on an island with her husband on their last day of vacation, so she’s trying to do something that doesn’t come naturally to her: slow down. ”I can do a lot of things quite fast,” the petite Scot says with a cheeky laugh. As the official test-driver for the Williams Martini Formula 1 racing team, Wolff reaches speeds of more than 190 miles per hour on the track, often withstanding a g-force equal to five times her body weight. ”Even on holiday, I’m swimming in the sea, and I end up racing my husband to a buoy and back,” she says, laughing. ”But I read a lot. That’s quite slow, right?”

As the first woman to drive on a grand prix weekend in more than two decades, Wolff, 33, has become motorsport’s cult heroine. ”I get asked the question a lot,” she says about being a girl in a boys club. ”But as much as it’s a male-dominated world, it’s also my world.” She received her first motorbike at age two, started competing in go-kart races at eight, and by 13 qualified for the Karting World Championships.

picture: red carpet dressesBut make no mistake, Wolff is not one of the guys. ”Many people have this false presumption that I’m a tomboy because I’m a racing driver,” says Wolff, whose mother and grandmother owned a dress shop in Scotland, contributing to her taste for Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, and Roland Mouret. People are often surprised when she turns up to industry events in soaring heels and feminine dresses. ”In my 20s, I kind of figured out that fashion was going to be quite an important tool to fight against the stereotype.”

It was at 19, though, that Wolff made what she considers her most daring move yet: She politely declined the advice of ”everybody who said I needed a Plan B should racing not work out,” dropped out of university, and signed up for the fast life. She quickly climbed the racing ladder, and in 2006 joined the Mercedes-Benz touring team in Switzerland, where she met, and now lives with, her husband, Mercedes executive Toto Wolff. ”I don’t believe in Plan B’s anymore,” she declares. ”Make Plan A work.”

”As much as it’s a male-dominated world, it’s also my world.” —Susie Wolff

Car racing is one of three sports—along with sailing and equestrian—in which women compete against men at the highest levels, and while some fans advocate for a separate women’s league, Wolff’s stance is clear: ”If it was down to sheer physical power, I’d be the first to say, ‘I don’t have as much muscle as that guy.’ ” But when you factor in the car, ”there’s no reason a woman can’t compete, and I have proved that through my test-driving,” she says proudly, which is why it was a blow that Wolff, who currently races exclusively on test days, was not tapped as reserve driver when Valterri Bottas, one of the Williams Martini team’s two competitive racers, was injured earlier this year.

”For sure, when I wasn’t nominated it was disappointing,” she says frankly. For Wolff, the promotion could have meant becoming the third woman ever to compete in a grand prix. ”You’ve got to remember, though, there are only 20 spaces in the grid, male or female. I took the fight on, I know what I’m up against.”

Wolff may well be the next woman to race in Formula 1, but ”ultimately we need more young girls racing between the ages of eight and 12 for the best to rise to the top,” she says. ”When I finish my racing career, it’s something I’m going to dedicate time to”—something she’s already begun to do as an ambassador for Mercedes and the Women in Motorsport Commission and by personally mentoring fast-rising young racers like the Colombian Formula 3 driver Tatiana Calderón.

As for the roads she shares with us mere mortals, ”I do tend to drive quite fast,” Wolff admits, lamenting Switzerland’s sky-high speeding fines. ”I’m working on it.”

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