The Fast and the Fashionable. It is the perfect recipe that attracts the rich, famous, and Psy impersonators alike to the French Riviera; free flowing champagne, million dollar yachts, private planes and helicopters, fashion shows, luxurious parties, and the most glamorous sporting event in the world, the Monaco Grand Prix.
Considered to be the ultimate Formula One race, it is also the most dangerous and demanding with its narrow course, tight corners, and elevation changes. But, the Circuit de Monaco only offers a glimpse of the real prestige that takes place in this playground built for the rich and famous. The $1.5 billion worth of yachts that fill Port Hercules represents the who’s who of the mega rich and where, lined next to each other, they compete for the unofficial title of best party, by outdoing each other with loud music and luxury amenities. However, no one could outdo the party held aboard Safari Force India owner Dr. Vijay Mallya’s Indian Empress, a four-story yacht with an open-air nightclub, that included dancers and models flown in from Bombay to perform a fashion show, DJ’s spinning into the late night, bracelets and scarves given as party favors, and endless amounts of champagne and whisky made by the brewery magnate Dr. Mallya’s $12 billion dollar spirits group.
Held in the country that has the highest number of millionaires and billionaires, the lowest poverty rate, and the airport with the greatest number of private jets in the world, what other sporting event has the president of the company, Formula One CEO billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, charged in an international bribery case, athletes and their wives modeling in fashion shows, race day looking more like the Hollywood red carpet, lunch with a view costing €1,200, and a charity benefit auctioneer asking, “Who here doesn’t have a Picasso yet?” as he offers an original Picasso drawing, with no chuckle from the audience.
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Iceland Resurfaced. Just four years after the country’s financial meltdown, a new Iceland has emerged, one that is recovering at a surprisingly fast rate. A change in moral character has accompanied the economic lift, expressed through a desire to return to Iceland’s cultural roots and historic identity. Although the overzealous attitude and excessive consumption that is referred to as “very 2007” still litters the landscape with paved roads leading to skeleton towns and abandoned buildings, Icelanders are revisiting the core values that have defined the country for decades; family, community, environmentalism, the great outdoors, entrepreneurship, and fish. With a devalued currency, fish is the new gold, offering twice its value, but in fact, fish has always been the true savior of Icelandic culture and its traditional source of wealth.
During the economic boom, banking seemed like the only worthwhile occupation and Icelanders felt their spirit got compromised, if not corrupted, in the gold rush for money. Icelanders left their roots for a faster, internationalist, and ostentatious identity, one that revolved around a singular interest, money and material acquisition. Fisherman, entrepreneurs, and musicians—all previously successful occupations for Icelanders—joined the throngs of inexperienced but highly prosperous bankers. With the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subprime crisis, Iceland’s three major banks, which had grown to nine times the country’s entire economic output, found themselves deprived of liquidity. The stock market plunged. Inflation rose to 20%, unemployment surged, and the Krona, Iceland’s currency, dropped 80%. Shortly after, a new government took control and with little choice, let the banks fail, making Iceland the poster child for the worst banking collapse in economic history.
However, the silver lining was a kind of creative destruction that allowed Icelanders to start anew, learn from their mistakes, and recreate a society based on more communitarian values rather than individualistic greed. This was possible for them because, unlike Ireland, they were not part of the EU and were able to default on much of their international debt. Though it was a painful transition, they turned inward, and relied on themselves, a highly educated people with vast natural resources of energy and fish.
Today, Icelanders are shunning foreign designer clothes in favor of traditional knit woolens. The biggest importer of Range Rovers is now a salmon farmer. A musician from one of Iceland’s well known rock bands left the day job he hated and is back making music, while fishing to make money. He is losing his home but prefers to be free, than “work” for the bank. The richest entrepreneur in the country has returned to Iceland to help grow its future, rather than make millions abroad. A farming magnate lost his fortune but has opened an environmentally friendly bike store. And many of his compatriots are spending more time with family and enjoying the outdoors. They have a long journey ahead but are knitting, exercising, and eating good fish with their families in the process.
So You Want To Be A Princess. Every little girl’s dream is to be a princess when she grows up. But fairy tale has become hobby, pastime, and obsession for a new generation of women in their 20’s and beyond, as well as a multi-billion dollar business for Disney.
Since she was three years old, Courtney knew she wanted to be a princess. Now, 8, dolled as Rapunzel, Courtney is a princess, “I dress up and I get my hair done and I'm very kind like them.” She knows you can get married at Disney and already dreams of a princess wedding. That dream has become a reality for Christina Alaniz, soon to be Mrs. Torres, when she steps out of Cinderella’s horse drawn coach, moments before walking down the aisle in a Cinderella inspired dress and her modern day glass slippers, a pair of bejeweled high heels, at Disney’s Wedding Pavilion. Her fairy tale wedding followed a Disney World proposal “package” that included a ring in a glass slipper.
It is the capacity of the Princess brand to attract adults that has brought a record 36,000 participants, mostly grown women, to Disney World to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon, dressed in tutus and tiaras. The princess fantasy seems to have as strong an attraction for grown women as it does for little girls. Consequently, the eleven princesses that make up the Disney Princess franchise, Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida have become an empire, creating $300 million in revenue in 2001, $3 billion in 2006 and today, a $4 billion gold mine that has retailers from Alfred Angelo, Sephora, Dooney and Burke, and DSW designing Disney Princess lines of wedding gowns, handbags, glass slippers, and more.
For many women, the weekend allows for a break from being a mom and an escape from their everyday lives, where they don’t always get to feel like a princess. For others it is about camaraderie and personal commitment, like Kara Peters, who two years prior was 54 pounds heavier and couldn’t run half a lap around a track without doubling over with exhaustion. Meanwhile, at Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon, the seed is planted for the fantasy that, if Disney has their wish, will last a lifetime. Little girls, between 3 and 12 years old, line up to get a $300 dollar princess makeover where they transform from ordinary child into princess of their choice, with the help of a cadre of fairy godmothers, full length gowns, hairstyling, nail polish, make-up, glitter, and a splash of fairy dust. As parents look on and take memorable snap shots, one mother requests that Disney “come out with the adult version of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique salon…I think mothers like to be princesses too.”