Faye Emerson, first queen of talk shows

fayeemerson1During the Great White Male Host Dance-off of 2014-15, people complained that no women were named as successors to any of the major late-night shows. Now we have Sam Bee and Chelsea Handler, and decades ago we had Joan Rivers, but she wasn’t the first. That crown goes to Faye Emerson, who was more than the first female late-night host; she was the queen of early television.

If you think women aren’t taken seriously as late night candidates now, consider 1950. It was post-war America, the men were home and the women were expected to resume their careers as mothers, housewives, or perhaps teachers and secretaries if they were really bold.

Enter Faye Emerson. Born on July 8, 1917, she was first an actress in war dramas and other hard-boiled movies of the 1930s and 40s. After she married the President’s son, Elliott Roosevelt, she was thrust into publicity opportunities like interviewing Stalin during a trip to the Soviet Union. When she appeared on a game show in 1949 with her husband, she was so smart and witty she felt she had to apologize on-air for upstaging him. Her talent was noticed, however, because she received an offer for her own CBS show later that year. While doing that show, she also signed with NBC for the Faye Emerson Show, making her the first woman with two simultaneous shows on television.  She could talk pearls or politics, and her habit of wearing evening gowns with plunging necklines earned her the tag of “The High I.Q. in the Low-cut Gown.” Her next show would be a travelogue, Faye Emerson’s Wonderful Town, showcasing cities around the country in 1952.

faye2After her divorce from Roosevelt, Emerson announced her upcoming marriage to entertainer Skitch Henderson on-air, something that simply wasn’t done back then. She and her new husband teamed up for their own show, Faye and Skitch, in 1953. Not only did she have her own programs, she was the go-to person for panels and substitute host duties. She occasionally covered for Edward R. Murrow on his show, Person to Person, and for Garry Moore as well.  While she could be the ultimate glamorous TV presenter, she also showed America she had a brain, discussing civil rights, unions, blacklisting and women’s rights, and debating conservative personalities like William F. Buckley. She was so well-known to audiences that she garnered the nickname of “Mrs. Television.”

Emerson’s thoughtful opinions, quick mind and lessening coyness earned her many detractors, who brought up her looks and curves often in an effort to demean her and diminish her role as a social commentator.

As television shifted from talk shows to pure entertainment ,Emerson took her leave from the glowing box in everyone’s living room in the 1960s and spent a well-earned retirement in Europe, where social views were more forgiving. She ended up in Majorca, Spain, where she passed away in 1983. Today her name is largely forgotten, but her legacy lives on in people like Barbara Walters, Lesley Stahl, Rachael Maddow, and Oprah Winfrey, along with so many others. Below is one of the few remaining episodes of Emerson’s show. At the 6:30 mark, she interviews William Cimillo, a bus driver who abandoned his route and drove to Florida, becoming a folk hero along the way. Enjoy.

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Filed under girl power, History, pop culture, Television, women

Move over, Tony Stark: new Iron Man is a young woman of color

riri-williamsWhat happens when a brilliant MIT student gets her hands on a set of Iron Man armor and has the brainpower to make it work?

Marvel is kicking off the next storyline after Civil War II with teenaged Riri Williams, the new Iron Man. The series is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who came up with Riri while working on another project, according to an interview with Time. 

“This story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life—just random street violence—and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place,” said Bendis.

While Tony Stark recovers from the blows dealt during Civil War II, will he stay out of Riri’s way, mentor her, or do something else? Stay tuned, fans. Riri is set to debut in the comic later this year.

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Victoria Beckham boosts The Global Goals’ girl power video

It’s been 20 years since the Spice Girls took the world by storm with “Wannabe,” but the song’s message has an even bigger meaning in 2016. The organization The Global Goals made a new video for “Wannabe” with girls from around the world, emphasizing the things they really, really want: equal pay for equal work, quality education, an end to child marriage and stopping violence against women. The video received an extra boost from original Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, who posted it on her Facebook page. Beckham also said she was very proud of The Global Goals for empowering a new generation of young women.

Take a look at the embedded video below, then make your own video and join in. Your own goals could be presented to world leaders at the United Nations in September!

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Star Trek and Wonder Woman join newest girl geek trend in makeup


It all started with Star Wars.

That’s not quite true, but you can’t beat a beginning in a galaxy far, far away. Geek-themed makeup started popping up a few years ago in small boutique-style lines like Doctor Who Nail Polish. The first time geek-themed make-up went mainstream, however, was with the Star Wars Makeup collection by Covergirl, to celebrate the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Now a new force awakens, because the geek makeup trend has stretched to the final frontier and the pages of DC. The Star Trek MAC Collection will debut this summer, inspired by some of the franchise’s most memorable women: Uhura, Deanna Troi, Seven of Nine and Vina the Orion, smart choices that cover the majority of color palettes. The collection includes lip, eye and foundation products, and will be available before the official 50th Anniversary of Trek kicks off in September.

Hitting stores even sooner is a Wonder Woman-themed makeup collection, available in May and exclusively at Walgreens. The colors are brighter and very affordable; in the photo posted at Fashionably Geek, the Strawberry Empower-mint lip balm will go for $2.99 while the bronzer & highlighter will cost approximately $7.

It’s easy to get excited over these products, until you remember the #wheresrey grassroots campaign complaining about the lack of Rey action figures and toys, and wonder if the people in product development thought makeup would be enough to satisfy girl geeks. It’s not, obviously, because we want all kinds of products for all kinds of geek girls. Some wear makeup and cute TARDIS dresses, others wear jeans and roomy graphics tees. But the wide variety has even non-makeup enthusiasts thinking about purchasing a set, especially that oh-so-collectible Wonder Woman makeup bag. Besides, every geek girl is entitled to a bit of color. Even the Night Witches, the feared Russian female pilots who bombed nighttime Germany in World War II, gussied themselves up by using their navigation pencils on their lips.

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Comic book review: Gotta have ‘Faith’

FaithcomicThere are a lot of superhero comics competing for eyeballs out there, but as soon as I heard about Valiant’s series Faith, I knew I had to read it. Faith Herbert is a wonderfully geeky fangirl with the power to fly and move objects with her mind, talents that categorize her as a psiot. As the hero Zephyr, she was part of the Harbinger series but has now struck out on her own to become a gritty, down and dirty superhero.

One more thing.

Faith is also a plus-sized young woman, something not usually depicted in comic books. I steeled myself against the inevitable references to her weight throughout the first two issues, but those references never came and I breathed a sigh of relief. This, so far, is truly a body-positive series that focuses on life instead of looks.

Faith has a timid secret identity as a viral content writer, and the breathtaking art switches between daydreams of gorgeous rainbow fantasy sequences (done by Marguerite Sauvage) and the stark, bold lines depicting reality (drawn by Francis Portela), whether it’s a tedious nine-to-five job writing click-bait critiques of her ex-boyfriend’s reality show or investigating the disappearance of fellow psiots as Zephyr and blaming herself for a fiery tragedy. As she delves into the mystery, she’ll have the chance to show the world what a superhero truly looks like. This short four-issue series is written by Jody Houser, and it has me rooting for Faith at every turn.

The series is easy to jump into without any previous knowledge of Harbinger, and the few overlap characters are clearly defined, like Faith’s ex-boyfriend and another team member who scouts out missions. I hope Valiant has a longer run planned for the future, because I gotta have Faith.

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Woman-themed coloring books for International Women’s Day

colorfulwomeninhistoryWomen’s History Month kicked off with a bang of the gavel, thanks to SheKnows‘ Ruth Bader Ginsburg coloring book. Since today is International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate by highlighting more coloring books fueled by girl power!

Dover Publishing has a fantastic selection of women’s history coloring books. Famous Women Aviators features 44 women of air and space like Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride, while Famous African-American Women showcases Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, and more. There’s also Famous American Women, covering Susan B. Anthony to Oprah Winfrey; Famous Women of the Civil War; America’s First Ladies; and, for a bit of swagger,  Pirate Queens: Notorious Women of the Sea. Color in famous female pirates like Huang P’ei-mei,who had a fleet populated with 50,000 plunderers who answered only to her, and you’ll have a sudden urge to wear a sword and an eyepatch to your next office meeting.

On Etsy, you’ll find Coloring Outside the Kitchen,  a hand-created labor of love created by teacher/librarian/artist Casey Landau, which rounds up a host of outstanding women, including Annie Oakley, first African-American female millionaire Madame C.J. Walker, artist Frida Kahlo and many more.

Author and illustrator Lisa Graves has created her own coloring books on Amazon: Colorful Women in History and The Witches. Both celebrate the true stories of women’s triumphs and challenges through the ages. Want something in a different size? Try Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace, a fun, body-positive coloring book by Theo Nicole Lorenz which shows women kicking butt and taking names in the final frontier.



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Saudi girl gamers create their own convention

gconIn a country where women are banned from driving or even going out on their own, it’s no wonder that Saudi Arabia has a thriving girl gamer community. Where there are geeks and gamers, there will be conventions, but females were also stopped from attending regular gaming cons, so they formed their own, according to a NPR report.

GCON is in its fourth year, and 3,000 Saudi girl gamers attended the con, held in a Riyadh hotel convention center. Tasneem Salim and Felwa al-Swailem are GCON’s organizers, and they managed to not only expand the convention into a second city but also garner the sponsorship of Playstation and the Chinese mobile tech company Huawei. Since 50 percent of gamers are female, GCON has the potential to expand and increase even further in size.

Attendees play games like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty and Uncharted, cosplay their favorite characters and receive encouragement to aim for STEM careers. Like gamers everywhere, they invest hundreds of hours in their favorite obsession.

“They call themselves geeks,” said al-Swailem. “There’s no embarrassment. I call myself a geek, too. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing.”

Cultural restrictions are slowly loosening on women in Saudi Arabia, with new voting rights and talk of some women being allowed to eventually represent themselves in society. For the next generation, gamers may be leading the way and leveling up to a better life.

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