Lady Gaga Ignites a Body Revolution

Lady Gaga is taking her clothes off to start a body revolution.

In response to news stories about her weight gain in recent weeks, Lady Gaga has taken matters into her own hands. On September 25, she posted unvarnished photos of her body on her Little Monsters social media site and encouraged community members to do the same. She calls the initiative A Body Revolution 2013. I believe Body Revolution is significant because the effort shows how a celebrity can use social media to make a powerful statement that transcends her art.

“Be brave and celebrate with us your ‘perceived flaws,’ as society tells us,” she wrote on her site when she launched Body Revolution. “May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous,” she added — as she revealed that she has suffered from bulemia and anorexia since she was 15 years old.

Body Revolution has generated an overwhelming response, with Little Monsters members from around the world posting photos of their bodies — warts, scars, cellulite, and all. The posts come with some compelling commentary. Here are some examples:

Some posts discuss eating disorders, such as this one from Sk3llingt0n, a 23-year-old Little Monster from France: “My body revolution, I’m sick, Anorexia and bulimia since 14YO, cut myself since same time…I find hope with Gaga. So hard to show my scars and my body.” Or this from Morphine Princess: “My own father calls me fat and stupid almost every day. I’ve had on-off eating disorders since I was 13 years old, I just want to feel comfortable with my body.”

The Body Revolution feels authentic — not a PR stunt — because Lady Gaga has always used her art and fame to celebrate individuality and self-acceptance. She is an active spokesperson for LGBT rights. Her Born This Way Foundation combats bullying and empowers youth. And, of course, she sings about self-acceptance in songs such as “Born This Way” (sample lyric: “Whether life’s disabilities/Left you outcast, bullied or teased/Rejoice and love yourself today/’Cause baby, you were born this way.”

Lady Gaga is neither the first nor the last artist to use her fame to support causes. However, her use of social media sets her apart. Here’s someone who is not only promoting self-acceptance but connecting like-minded people to each other.

But Body Revolution is not without its critics. In the September 27 The Guardian, freelance author Sady Doyle asserts that “The stunt reeks of selling acceptance to the insecure.”

Doyle writes, “I work for a web magazine aimed at teenage girls, and can confirm that descriptions of weight loss or body shape have to be looked over carefully, so as not to trigger anorexic or bulimic readers. Here’s one thing I don’t imagine is helpful to the eating disordered: submitting pictures of themselves to be judged by their favourite pop star.”

Moreover, in The Huffington Post (U.K. edition), fashion blogger Aimee Wood muses that the site might encourage people to accept obesity. “Obesity kills. Fact,” she writes. “Encouraging people to LOVE their bodies is great, but let’s not encourage people to NEGLECT their bodies. We need to take action. We need to realise WHY our bodies look like this and that there IS something we can do about it (in most cases) instead of just learning to live with it and get over it. We need to accept the fact that we CAN have flaws, but that we can also ACT against them. We need to encourage people to feel HAPPY with themselves but also and mainly to strive for what they really want (to look like) in life.”

But there’s one aspect of Body Revolution that you cannot appreciate unless you spend some time on the Little Monsters site: the peer commentary. Little Monsters can comment on each other’s posts, and Body Revolution content is no exception. Hence when one Little Monster posts a photo of her curvy body and admits to being nervous about her appearance, another member responds, ” . . . you have nothing to worry about, you are GORGEOUS.” When one member posts a photo of her scarred face, another responds, ” . . . if we met, I would want to hold your hand.” Lady Gaga is making the headlines, and rightfully so — but the real story is the community that carries the torch for the Body Revolution.

Lady Gaga: controversial. Loud. In your face. But most importantly of all, authentic. What do you think of A Body Revolution?

Apple Causes Panic in the First World

Apple is such a well-oiled machine that a rare misstep by one of the world’s most admired brands is front-page news. Consider Page 1 of the September 21 The Wall Street Journal: “Apple Makes a Wrong Turn as Users Blast Map Switch,” reports the WSJ breathlessly alongside an article about the U.S. presidential election and an analysis of the widely reported September 11 assault on the U.S. Libyan assembly. “Apple Makes a Wrong Turn” focuses on Apple’s decision to replace a Google Maps applications with an apparently less accurate Apple mapping software in the newest version of Apple’s OS operating software (iOS 6) for the iPhone. Yes, that’s right: a consumer uprising about mapping software on their iPhones receive the same level of attention as a discussion of a tragic assault that claimed lives and raises questions about U.S. security. Do our smartphones matter this much?

Hell, yes. Consider these stats from the TIME Wireless Issue:

  • Half of all Americans confess to sleeping next to our mobile phones.
  • About 65 percent of people around the world would prefer taking their mobile phones over their lunches to work if forced to choose.
  • Eight of out 10 people say they cannot go a single day without their mobile devices.

Meantime, one of out 10 people studied by Stanford say admit to feeling “fully addicted” to their iPhones. And evidently the overwhelming majority of iPhone users are emotionally dependent on Google Maps. When it became known that Apple iOS 6 swapped Google Maps software with Apple’s own, a firestorm of protest erupted. A new blog, The Amazing iOS 6 Maps, shares numerous inaccuracies in Apple’s mapping software, such as the disappearance of Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, and wrong names applied to streets and landmarks. CNET and The Huffington Post joined the groundswell of consumer complaints erupting across social media, including people protesting on Twitter.

To be sure, it’s important that consumers hold companies accountable for their mistakes, and it’s galling when powerful brands like Apple and Facebook foist changes upon us without first understanding what we want and need. But the Google Maps flap screams “First World Problem.” We buy our smartphones to enrich our lives, and instead our smartphones lead us around by our noses. Apple needs to fix inaccurate information in its mapping software, but meantime we might want to test another solution: ask a human being for directions.

Location-Based Marketing Is More Than a Foursquare Game

The next time your boss insists you create a Foursquare scavenger hunt to make your brand “fun,” ask yourself who your audience is and what they’ll get out of the experience. Using location-based services such as Foursquare to build your brand is all about providing useful content like deals and offers, not games and status points, according to Geoff Ramsey, CEO and founder of eMarketer, who hosted a September 19 breakfast, “Location-Based Marketing: Driving Sales in a ‘What’s Around Me?’ World.”

According to Ramsey, eMarketer data show that Foursquare usage is leveling off and that gaming experiences on Foursquare “are getting old for consumers.” In fact, local check-in “is not the huge opportunity that the media was making it out to be.” His discussion suggests marketers need to first understand the audience for location-based services and provide valuable content they’ll care about. The hot areas of opportunity are geo-fencing (e.g., a clothing retailer on Michigan Avenue in Chicago offers you a deal on your smart phone as you stroll past the store on your way to lunch) and in-store (marketing to consumers as they use their mobile devices to browse the inventory in your physical store — and catching their attention with value-added services and deals that encourage immediate purchase).

On the iCrossing Great Finds blog, I provide a lengthier report on Ramsey’s points. Check it out, and I invite your feedback.

A Slice of Hip-Hop: “What Would Jesus Do (WWJD),” by DATz DEM

Are you ready for some gospel hip-hop? Check out “What Would Jesus Do (WWJD),” from DATz DEM, which consists of artists ILL Son and Focist P. The opening moments of “WWJD” evoke Marvin Gaye’s gospel side, with a soulful vocal floating above strings before ILL Son and Focist P trade raps about Jesus, Psalm 23, and the joys of spirituality (they name check televangelist Creflo Dollar for good measure).

The lyrics are an unabashed expression of the Christian faith and a condemnation of all things evil.  “The devil is a lie, that’s why people be killing,” they rap, “Robbing and stealing sometimes for no reason/Cutting down trees in the Garden of Eden/The Snake got you eatin’ forbidden fruit/So the question is for you/What would Jesus do.”

“WWJD” is an affirmation of life (“Every day above ground is a wonderful day”) and faith (Jesus “delivers us from evil like a Greyhound bus”). “WWJD” is also ILL Son’s first foray into gospel hip-hop and a departure from the romantic, secular “Wait for Me,” which I featured on Superhype earlier this year.

In an email interview with me, ILL Son explained that “WWJD” is “a direct reflection of how I have been pursuing my dreams for 15 years and counting; and no matter how long it takes, we shall achieve our goals.” He believes the spirituality of “WWJD” co-exists comfortably with more secular material because both types of songs simply reflect what he and Focist P are feeling from moment to moment.

“I just feel that however the music speaks to us at that moment, that is what comes from the heart,” he says. “We do not put ourselves into any kind of musical box.” He describes the audience for “WWJ” not in religious terms but as “anyone who enjoys great hip-hop music.”

This summer, they performed three shows (including “WWJD”) over two nights at the Atlanta Gospel Fest, where the likes of Shirley Caesar and Montel Jordan appeared (an experience that ILL Son describes as “a blessing’). Now ILL Son and Focist P are busy on a mixtape, video for “WWJD,” and a promotional tour.

You can be sure the experience will be inspirational.

For further explorationcheck out this site for more insight into gospel hip-hop. And if you are not already fans of Marvin Gaye and Al Green, I invite you to explore their musical legacy to appreciate how two giants of music mixed the secular with the spiritual in their art.

Welcome to Bucky’s

“Welcome to Bucky’s.”

I heard the greeting from a voice that sounded ragged but sincere behind a partition as I walked into a Mobil gas station on a warm Friday night. It’s not every day that you get welcomed to a gas station. I glanced over to the partition.

A tired, rumpled looking man with a creased forehead smiled at me. He looked to be in his sixties. I thought of Ned Beatty counting change greeting customers. I smiled back and muttered a thank you before heading to the bathroom. My family and I had a long night of driving ahead of us and we’d stopped at this gas station that doubled as a convenience store for all the usual reasons.

The inside of the bathroom was small but spotless. More like what you’d expect in an upscale restaurant without any fancy ambience. And the convenience store itself was tidy and well organized.

“May I suggest something?” the Ned Beatty manager asked as I wandered listlessly through the aisles, slowly collecting candy bars and cans of soda. “Those candy bars you’re thinking of buying — you can save more if you take advantage of our two for one special for the next size up.”

Was this guy for real?

He smiled. “Crazy, isn’t it? Some of the specials you can find.”

I scooped up the candy bars he suggested and walked over to the counter. I hardly ever bother to notice anyone standing behind the counter of a convenience mart. These are just places to grab what you need and leave. But I studied his face again as he regarded me from behind thick glasses and a sweaty brow, making eye contact and flashing the smallest of smiles. He wore a short-sleeved blue shirt, a little wrinkled but clean. I pictured him younger, in a suit and tie, walking into an office each day and holding down a white-colla job before somehow ending up here.

“I need the soda pop for the caffeine,” I mumbled. “Long drive coming up.”

He nodded.  “I know what you mean.”

I collected my stuff and turned to head out. I wondered if I’d be found behind a counter like this some day, past retirement age, still working to make ends meet.

“Hey,” I said. “You have a nice night.”

“And you have a better one.”

Welcome to Bucky’s.