There was a time not so many years ago when social media was not the 800-pound gorilla of human interaction that it has since become.
Now that social media, with its trolls and algorithms have swung a presidential election and is the primary source of White House policy, it boggles the mind that less than ten years ago it didn’t have the power to get a movie star on the cover of a magazine.
But it didn’t.
Of course, it wasn’t just any movie star and it wasn’t just any magazine, but I tried to make it happen. God knows, I tried. By our powers combined, my 538 most intimate Facebook friends and I left no stone unturned in our efforts to get Dolly Parton on the cover of French Vogue in the waning years of the aughts when the magazine was firmly under the velvet-gloved iron fist of Carine Roitfeld.
We weren’t the only ones. It was a worldwide campaign, so it came as quite a surprise when an Australian magazine and a couple of South American fashion blogs wrongly believed I had started the campaign and emailed me with interview requests. I sadly informed them that I had not instigated the campaign but was only working to right what I saw as an egregious slight to a style icon.
What I did not know then — a lack of information that may have cost me worldwide fame and Dolly an internationally prestigious cover — was that the basic rules of human decency do not apply to social media. Personal promotion is everything, and need not be restricted by something so frivolous as the truth. In the coming world of social media, truth would take a back seat to perception, but I didn’t know that yet. The mere fact that the news media on two continents saw me as a tastemaker was enough to make it so. Again, a fact which eluded me at the time.
In short, I could have just lied. I could have taken credit for an idea that was not mine and for which I did not deserve any credit and that would have been perfectly fine. It was the way of the future, but sadly, I did not know that yet. And because of that ignorance, I remain unfamous and Dolly has no framed French Vogue cover gracing her dressing table which would perhaps bring her great pleasure during the long hours required to apply her makeup and hair.
And it was precisely those long hours required to transform Dolly into Dolly that made the whole idea of her presence on the cover of Madame Roitfeld’s Paris Vogue so deliciously, ludicrously compelling.
I was bewitched by the idea from the very beginning, but if you are less familiar with Carine Roitfeld than you are with Dolly Parton, perhaps I should explain why it was such a bewitching notion.
At the time, Carine Roitfeld was editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue, and it was an integral part of the Dolly campaign that Roitfeld be the art director for the shoot. We insisted.
If you were perhaps not a fan of Paris Vogue during Madame Roitfeld’s reign at the publication, it is possible you do not get the joke. Remember the film, “The Devil Wears Prada”? Roitfeld was the real-life Jacqueline to Meryl Streep’s Miranda.
She was enormously influential and powerful and she used that influence and power to promote a sleek, androgynous, tough femininity that was, and is, the polar opposite of Dolly Parton’s buxom girliness. Roitfeld was the international poster child for the sort of extreme minimalism where a seam serves as an embellishment. She was “Good Taste” writ large.
Dolly also had loads of “Taste,” probably more than Roitfeld, though most of it was unashamedly bad. Dolly’s personal mantra might well have been “Too Much is Never Enough.”
Not to mention that Ms. Parton has a great sense of humor and self-awareness. Madame Roitfeld apparently had none.
The coming together of these two powerhouses of opposing styles would have been equivalent to an unmovable object confronting an unstoppable force. We’re talking fashion Big Bang. It might not have reshaped the universe but it would have created some fallout. I wanted to see it as much as a storm chaser wants to be in the eye of a hurricane. And for much the same reason.
But it was not to be.
Roitfeld left Paris Vogue without ever putting Dolly on her cover. A few years later when her name was being tossed about as a potential new editor at Elle, I half-heartedly revived the campaign. But nothing came of it. Neither the job nor the campaign.
But when Roitfeld started her own magazine, CR Fashion Book, she put Kate Upton on her cover. Upton had previously been considered too curvaceous for high-fashion work — even Victoria’s Secret refused to hire her, considering her “too obvious” but Roitfeld put her on the first cover of a magazine bearing her name.
Was it a sly wink at the Dolly campaign? Perhaps, and I’m glad she launched Upton’s career, but I’ve always preferred an original to a copy.
The ball is in your court Carine. And this time I’m taking full credit.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.