Tag Archives: Shaun Proulx

Through the eyes of Tom Ford: Pride 2014

26 Jun
Tom Ford by Helmut Newton

Photograph by Helmut Newton. Published in Vogue, March 1999.

With Toronto hosting World Pride this year, I feel that much more inspired to celebrate the powerful gay icons that have shaped our world. I spotlighted Freddie Mercury in 2012, Liberace in 2013, and for 2014, the focus is on the clothing, detail, luxury, and the daring of Tom Ford.

Tom Ford is a man who personifies BOLD not only in his clothing designs but in his business dealings. Before launching his own menswear label in 2007, he spent ten years as Creative Director for Gucci and brought them from near bankruptcy to $3 billion a year in sales. He is aligned with Estee Lauder for the Tom Ford Beauty Brand, and he counts 98 retail Tom Ford stores in the world among many other achievements.

American Vogue‘s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, says Ford has an uncanny way of conveying the same three core themes: sex, power, and divine decadence. “I don’t think I have ever worked with anyone with a greater passion for detail or a clearer vision of his aesthetic goals,” she says.

Ford is a powerhouse of talent that goes beyond fashion design. In 2009, he directed and co-wrote the screenplay for  A Single Man, a tale of gay angst in the early 1960s, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. I recommend it; it’s tasteful and interesting, but tragic.  Ford’s debut film won many awards and Firth received an Oscar nomination for best actor.

He is incredibly talented and successful; a billionaire with enormous power in the fashion industry, and audacious as all hell. Tom Ford does what he wants and he does it well, otherwise he wouldn’t carry clients like Johnny Depp and Daniel Craig. Yet with all that going for him, with all the success and power and wealth, Tom Ford remains human.

Images of beauty 

Ford studied architecture before he turned to fashion and understands how to build things. He uses geometry in his designs and creates sensuous lines and angles in magnificent, often textured, deeply coloured fabrics in his menswear collections.

He seems to have an inborn sense of balance and opulence and learned about fashion through his mother and grandmother. “My mother was very chic, very classic,” he recalls in an interview with Biography. “My paternal grandmother was very stylish in a very Texas way—everything big and flashy, from jewelry to cars.”

Tom Ford jackets

Note the gorgeous geometry of Ford’s jacket lapels and the sumptuous fabrics and colours.

“The images of beauty you get in your childhood stick with you for life,” Ford explains, “So there’s a certain flashiness at Gucci—Texas-inspired—with a certain Western feel.”

When asked if Texas has influenced his designs, Ford tells FDLuxe,  “I have certain notions of glamour that I never lost… I like a heel on a boot. I feel better with a heel. That Texas taste—big hair and a lot of makeup—was my first notion of beauty. And I have to say, to this day, I still have a thing for big hair.”

The big, bold, and flashy was woven into Ford’s designs for Gucci and used in his own menswear line. The casual luxury of his Western-inspired spring/summer 2015 collection is comprised of suede jackets with tasselled sleeves, jeans, denim shirts, and jean jackets–a far cry from his iconic suits and shirts, dapper enough for 007 himself.

“What we wanted to do was to expand sportswear so that our customer has something to wear for every occasion of his life,” he says of the collection.

Ford uses bold and unexpected colour in his menswear collections, and in his current men’s line, pink, lilac, and ocean blue jackets are paired with white shirts and trousers. Coming up for fall/winter 2014, blacks, greys, creams, and earthy colours mixed in with  beautiful violets and royal blues in cotton-silk Jacquard and velvet cocktail jackets.

Tom Ford the human

Despite what we might think a billionaire designer who caters to high-end clients like Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Drake might be like, Tom Ford is a regular person.

I spoke to former model, Patrick Marano, now husband and manager to gay media mogul, Shaun Proulx, who posed for a 2005 Tom Ford sunglasses campaign.

“The shoot was in L.A. Poolside,” Marano recalls, “At the break Tom came and ate with us. He was very down-to-earth and friendly. And of course he looked great, impeccably dressed.”

Ford is a real person; he’s sensitive and romantic, and he loves to be in love and be in a relationship:”I’m someone who likes being part of a couple and always wanted that and always sought that,” he says, “And it would probably be true for me whether I was gay or straight.”

When Ford saw his long-term partner, Richard Buckley, the former Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Hommes International, at a fashion show in 1986, it was love at first sight. More than twenty-five years along, Ford and Buckley married this past spring and welcomed their son, Alexander John Buckley Ford (Jack), into the world in 2012. Ford has proved to be a devoted partner and father.

“I feed Jack, I dress him, I change his diaper, and I have a good two or three hours with him every morning, just me and him.” Ford says, “At night, again, I put him to bed and try to spend as much time with him as possible.”

Though it may be unbelievable, our superstar designer changes diapers, cooks, and unless he’s travelling, gets home each night to feed Jack. Now that he’s raising a child, his perspective of the world has changed. In particular, he no longer receives Botox injections, saying, “A lot of things I cared about before I don’t care as much about anymore.”

It’s refreshing that a superstar like Tom Ford understands his limited relevance and shelf-life. “No matter how hard you try there is a cultural moment, but eventually that window’s gone, your time on Earth is finished, and you might as well leave,” he says, “I could absolutely die tomorrow–I would not care. I feel like I’ve lived, I feel like I’ve had a great life.”

Tom Ford‘s style advice:

  • A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.
  • At home, off-duty, I wear T-shirts from Fruit of the Loom but I have them tailored – if the sleeves are cut over the tricep your arms look much better.
  • Keep your jacket buttoned. Always. It’s just really flattering – it will take pounds off you.


Flowers for men? Yes!

12 Jun

bouquet for father's dayWhat do you think about when you choose gifts for people? Do you think about practicality, or are presents meant to be frivolous? When I want to give someone a gift, I think like this: 1) everyone has enough stuff, so there is no need for more, and 2) the environment: what can I give that will biodegrade?

Answer? Flowers! In the past, flowers carried an association with women, but now, flowers are for everyone–yes, even men.

I thanked a reporter for doing a story on me a few years ago with a bouquet of purple irises. “Oh, they’re lovely!” he said. Then I think it dawned on him that I, a woman, was giving him, a man, flowers, and this seemed to shake him as he stammered a bit then turned red.

With women’s independence comes a woman’s choice to send a man flowers, and with it, a man’s opportunity to feel special and happy that he’s worthy to receive them. Flowers are a win-win situation.

Dana William Hamilton at The New Leaf florist in Toronto says that it’s becoming more common for women to send men flowers for any occasion, including Father’s Day.

“People hadn’t been giving flowers for Father’s Day for years,” Dana says, “but then came metrosexual men and there were suddenly more flowers and plants; flowers used in interior decoration, women sending more flowers to men during the year, and plants given as gifts for Father’s Day”.

If mums get flowers on Mother’s Day, why wouldn’t dads get flowers on Father’s Day? I mean, how many golf clubs can a man own? Does he really need a pneumatic nailer? How about something that will make him smile and lift his spirits instead?

Gendered blooms

Before the 90s, men were almost forbidden to go near flowers unless they were getting married or being buried, but gay men have not had the same rules applied to them. In many ways, gays have had more freedom to express themselves than their heterosexual brothers.

roses for men

Shaun Proulx uses flowers in his interior decoration. Used with permission.

In Toronto’s gay village, there are two florists on one street and most groceries and convenience stores sell flowers outside, so the gay ghetto is very colourful and lovely. Shaun Proulx, Canada’s gay Oprah, lives in the neighbourhood and always has fresh flowers in his home.

“I would get rid of almost anything I own except flowers,” he says. “The joy they bring to my life is immeasurable. I’m proud to say I have lost many hours of my life just staring and studying the flowers around me.”

Given the crap we’ve been taught about flowers not being “manly” and associated with beautiful, delicate, weak things like women, gays, and children, heterosexual men have been denied the pleasure of nature’s fragrant gems for a long time, but perhaps thanks to the metrosexuals, the door has opened for all men to appreciate flowers without the fear of gender bullies coming after them to kick their pansy asses for liking something so “feminine”.

I asked some of my heterosexual men friends how they feel about flowers and I’m delighted to tell you that for those who have yards and gardens, the majority like to plant flowers. Many said they either currently have flowers at home or would like to have indoor flowers more often. This is a wonderful indication that flowers are slowly but surely becoming genderless.

Well, that’s what you might think, but gender-dividing media outlets sill exist like Spike. Spike is a US TV network that targets young men between 18-34, and encourages the tough, emotionless male stereotype that from my point of view, is abusive to men.

Gendered bullsh*t

I don’t believe in “feminine” or “masculine” flowers; flowers are flowers, but apparently not to everyone. The following is Spike’s top nine “manly” flowers that smell of imposed gender roles:

9. Snapdragon (“…dragons in any form are badass…”)

8. Hops (used to make beer)

7. Cactus (especially the ones with long stiff flowers growing out of them)

6. Belladonna (poisonous)

5. Tree tobacco (can be smoked like a cigar but can kill you, therefore, “this flower is clearly not fit for girly-men”)

4. Venus flytrap (carnivorous plant)

3. Rafflesia (aka meat plant) “The ultimate man’s flower,” says Spike, “It’s super big and like man, it doesn’t like to be tied down.” This flower emits a rotten meat stench and Spike says, “Any flower that smells like meat (even rotten meat) is pretty ballsy.”

2. Poppy (“No other flower in history has caused as much bloodshed and human destruction as the poppy”–i.e. opium)

1. The Corpse flower, or amorphophallus titanium, means, “giant misshapen penis”. The Corpse flower is the largest flower on earth and like the meat plant, emits a revolting smell of rotting flesh to draw carrion insects that helps it cross-pollinate. Spike calls it the “alpha male of flowers”.


Lilies are delightfully fragrant flowers, a good alternative to the Corpse flower.

Judging by this list, Spike suggests that the best flowers for men are reeking and dangerous and sometimes resemble a phallus. So if we bought into this way of thinking, fellas, how would feel if you were sent a bouquet of meat-eating plants or huge stinking phallus flowers? Would you feel manly? Nauseous? Or perhaps insulted?

Accepting the stiff, archaic gender stereotype that contributes to the massive emotional abuse that has been thrust upon men and boys for years, strips them of their natural emotions and likens them to a cactus: “tall, prickly on the outside, somewhat unapproachable, sturdy, and tough”.

The alpha male of flowers?

Flowers can self-pollinate and create their own seeds, or cross-pollinate with the help of insects and wind. Flowers, like every other living thing, only exists to reproduce itself and should not fall into human gender classifications, but they have. Spike, for example,  gives the giant misshapen penis flower a male face and considers it the “alpha male of flowers”.

I read an excellent article on The Good Man Project recently called The Myth of the Alpha Male, where author, James Fell, says the alpha male concept is “a bullsh*t title used to sell books and programs.” The author explains that the idea of an alpha male is “toxic and prevents you from focusing on the real path to self-improvement”.


Shaun Proulx’s gorgeous peonies. Used with permission.

Fell’s definition of alpha maleness is “just a bunch of cock-sure, arrogant and self-entitled assholes. It’s a gentleman. A leader. A strong and worthy man blah, blah, blah. They’re putting lipstick on a pig, trying to convince you that you’re either the leader of the pack, or you’re a beta who won’t get what you deserve in this life”.

As noted by Fell, the notion of the alpha male comes from 1970’s  The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior or an Endangered Species by L. David Mech who explains that the term”Alpha” implies winning a competition or battle with others to become “top dog”, but he says, “most wolves who lead packs achieved their position simply by mating and producing pups, which then became their pack”. To the wolf researcher, there is no alpha male as much as there is no alpha female; wolves are simply breeders.

Applying the alpha concept to humans, then, is ridiculous, but applying it to a flower  is absurd. Does Spike think that the Corpse flower is an “alpha” because it’s large? Because it resembles a penis? Or is it because it reeks of rotting tissue?

Humans appreciate nature and beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers will win over anyone at any time and for any reason, so give flowers and give them often. Giving men flowers brightens their day, puts a smile on their face, and sometimes brings a charming blush to their cheeks–the honest and ungendered price of pleasure.

Freddie Mercury

30 Jun

Freddie Mercury, Queen singer and world-wide inspiration

To honour Pride Week, I’m inspired by one of the most famous and flamboyant men in rock and roll history, a man with one of the most powerful singing voices the world has ever heard, a man loved by heterosexual hooligans, glam boys, and everyday people: Freddie Mercury.

The man was incredible, absolutely brilliant in every way. He had the type of genius that isn’t meant to survive for long in this world… instead to burn brightly for a short, intense time and then fade to the black behind the curtains with a flourish, leaving the rest of us to spend our lives playing catch up, trying our best to understand what we’ve just seen and heard, and to cherish it forever.

– Random fan comment on a Queen video on YouTube

Gender roles

Freddie Mercury broke the rules. He took the rigid concepts of gender and not only bent them, but transcended them.

I recognize Freddie’s contribution to the world on levels beyond musical appreciation – I am no stranger to gender-bending. It all started with my high school obsession with Boy George (Freddie himself saw the Culture Club singer’s talent), then in university, I had a kick-ass feminist Dramaturgy professor in Theatre school who got me to think outside of assigned gender roles and introduced her classes to performances where men played women and women played male roles, playfully confusing our understanding of conformed gender. Donating time at the AIDS Committee of Toronto for years as the first woman to volunteer in the gay men’s outreach program and sitting in on all kinds of in-service workshops and presentations, I am well-acquainted with sexuality, gender, and the socialization of both. I see humans as incredibly complex beings and to force us into pre-assigned gender pigeonholes seems unfair, unless of course those gender restrictions are natural for that person.

I understand that between the socially accepted extremes of sexuality and gender is a vast ocean representing anything and everything in between. This was initially observed by Alfred Kinsey who devised the Kinsey Scale in 1948 “in order to account for research findings that showed people did not fit into neat and exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories.”

The LGBT community does not fit into these prescribed gender roles and I interpret the queer community as people who are natural being whoever they are and whoever they want to be. It’s about being authentic and there is a great freedom in this.


Gender-bending was part of the fun of  the Glam Rock movement that took the UK by storm in the early 1970s, lead by the super sexy and super androgynous Marc Bolen of T. Rex. David Bowie, Gary Glitter, Alice Cooper, and Sweet among others followed in shocking suit wearing make-up, long hair, outrageous glitzy costumes, and platform boots. While Bolen was a huge figure who I believe to be the godfather of Glam, the man who fronted Queen took Glam, performance, and popular music to new heights previously unseen.

Of Glam, Freddie Mercury said in 1973, “We’re confident people will take to us, because although the camp image has already been established by people like Bowie and Bolan, we are taking it to another level. The concept of Queen is to be regal and majestic. Glamour is part of us and we want to be dandy. We want to shock and be outrageous instantly.”

Mercury was special. In the beginning, he experimented with bi-sexuality before fully embracing his homosexuality. “I’m as gay as a daffodil, my dear!” he once said. Freddie sang with an amazingly powerful voice with an astonishing range, wrote classic generational anthems, and rocked and inspired millions of people. Sadly, he was also one of the first famous people that AIDS took from us.

The Mercury image

You may not know this, but Freddie was born Farrokh Bulsara, to Persian parents in Zanzibar, attended an English boarding school near Bombay, and settled in the UK in 1964. He was a part of a post-psychedelic 60s movement that spotlighted sexual and gender experimentation and changed rock music forever. Glam inspired the New Romantics of the early 80s and the androgynous metal hair bands of the mid-80s, all the way up to modern acts like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Adam Lambert.

Freddie predicted his legendary status and thought of himself as a “musical prostitute”. He was a star, he knew it, and he worked it: “I do deliver sex appeal. It’s part of modern rock. I sell sex appeal with my body movements on stage.”

His costumes, part of his onstage persona, were specially designed for him by Zandra Rhodes and later by Diana Moseley (she did the yellow military jacket he wore at Live Aid in 1985). From tight sequined or harlequin jumpsuits to macho leather jackets, and from dreamy floating caftans to regal ermine-trimmed capes, Freddie said, “I dress to kill, but tastefully.”

While viewing some Queen videos online, I was struck by this comment: “Freddie Mercury may be the only person with 6 glasses of beer on top of a piano, [in] a Superman shirt and tight white pants allowed to sing that way. Thanks Freddie.”

The Mercury legacy

Freddie Mercury moved many of us for all sorts of reasons. I’ve been overdosing on Queen music and Queen videos because I love their music and find Freddie’s voice incredible. I also like his flamboyant image and fun attitude. But what did he do for other people? I asked some friends what Freddie meant to them:

“Freddie was a man comfortable in his own skin and that comfort continues to inspire other men to seek and hold their own confidence in their dress and their attitude. I love Madonna but he was the original “Express Yourself””.       – Shaun Proulx of Shaun Proulx Media

“I think my impression of him now is mostly fantasy. He is wilder, crazier and gayer in my mind’s eye than he could possibly have been in real life. There are some lyrics or bits of live performance that steal you away from the purity of my original listens to the records, but if I go back to my young mind where gay and straight didn’t exist, I can hear Queen the way I like to hear them: without subtext, back story or bias – lovely.”  – Mark Wigmore, CBC RADIO 2 DRIVE

“A musical genius with a lust for life; I would have loved to shop with him!”      – Mary

“As a singer, he was phenomenal, and Queen was HUGE in the 70s. However, as a little Catholic boy coming to terms with his sexuality, there was something a little too ‘out there’, even if I wasn’t sure yet what that was. By the time the cringe-inducing “We Are the Champions” became a hetero anthem for athletes a few years later, my sense of irony was highly developed…. I still can’t listen to that song without gagging, and hearing slamming locker doors.” – John

“Freddie Mercury made the flamboyant, colourful and over-the-top performer seem cool and more importantly, macho.” – Tony

“Freddie Mercury was to my mind one of the gay world’s pioneers. He broke the hard ground of suspicion and intolerance and won acclaim and respect. I am saddened and frustrated by the fact he, and others like him, can’t see today what good he has done in winning us more acceptance. Ironically, I suppose, his loss has been our gain.” – Barry

“He was the showstopper, no question. He was easily one of the greatest performers ever. Performing was his gift–along with that superb voice! And truthfully, we all knew he was a gender-bender; that is one reason why I became more and more open to lifestyles like his. It made me realize connecting with both sides of our sexuality can produce great talent–the fruits of which will remain unforgettable.” – Tim

Freddie in 2012

Freddie lives on! Superimpose the Borat moustache onto Freddie’s face and see what you come up with – a Freddie Mercury biopic starts shooting this year, starring Sasha Baron-Cohen.

Also, check out Youtube for various documentaries on Freddie Mercury with interviews from his close friends, family, and lovers, to get to know him better.

For Pride or any time, get out your Queen albums and celebrate Freddie, one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century!

Let me welcome you ladies and gentlemen
I would like to say hello
Are you ready for some entertainment?
Are you ready for a show?
Gonna rock gonna roll you
Get you dancing in the aisles
Jazz and a razzmatazz you
With a little bit of style
C’mon let me entertain you
Let me entertain you let me entertain you

– Freddie Mercury