Unique Selling Point: Got Artaud?

In 1931, an avant-garde French Playwright named Antonin Artaud attended the performance of a Balinese dance troupe in Paris. He did not understand the cultural nuances of the production but he was impressed by the physicality of the dancers and it’s transcendent quality. That inspired him to write a collection of essays entitled “The Theater and It’s Double” seven years later in 1938. In the book, Artaud proposed a new form of theater he called “The Theater of Cruelty”.

Artaud felt Western theater should adopt a more Eastern approach to performance art by focusing more on sound, gesture and light because he believed words were insufficient to communicate depth. Artaud thought conventional theater was often superficial with its focus on plots that only explored narrow points of view. Therefore, the purpose of The Theater of Cruelty was to assault the audience’ senses to encourage self examination and ultimately to raise the consciousness of mankind. Artaud created quite a stir when he divorced the words “theater” and “cruelty” from their colloquial meanings to explain his theory. For Artaud, “theater” was not merely a reference to a staged performance before a passive audience but a practice for those that craved elevated experiences. Similarly, “cruelty” did not refer to an act of emotional or physical violence but rather “the unrelenting agitation of a life that has become unnecessary, lazy or removed from a compelling force”.

Public Relations is theater and one must adopt an Artaudian approach to the development of a Unique Selling Point to remain competitive. Long gone are the days when there were only two or three brands per category, consumers today have a staggering number of options so a brands’ Unique Selling Point must be adamantine. If done well, it will help establish a powerful emotional, almost spiritual connection with ones demographic.

So what exactly is a USP?
it’s a summary of what makes your business unique and valuable to your target market. It answers the question: What can your product/service do better than your competitors?

If you pay attention to ads, you will notice that almost every brand is overtly or covertly promising to transform your life in some significant way. A soda ad can’t just be about soda, it has to suggest that you will be more popular, attractive, successful etc. and that message is transmitted primarily using sound, gesture and light! It’s The Theater of Cruelty with capitalist aspirations.

While it is certainly key to be an effective verbal communicator, we cannot ignore or downplay the associations potential customers might make with a brand based on non-verbal factors.

According to Communications expert Allen Pease, over 80% of communication is non-verbal. As a former Cultural Anthropology teacher, I utilize my knowledge related to the affects of eight forms of non-verbal communication, cross-cultural competency, images, subliminal messages and symbolism on human behavior to advise my clients throughout a campaign.

So when I’m asked to help develop a USP I ask myself…have they got Artaud?

Two Dream Projects
Every once in awhile I fantasize about dream projects that I’d like to work on.
1) Wanderlust: A musical based on the music of Bjork
Wanderlust is a stage musical based on the songs of Bjork, composed by Bjork and Danny Elfman,The title of the musical is taken from Bjork’s chart-topper “Wanderlust”.
The musical includes such hits as “Human Behavior”, “Army of Me”, “Joga”, “Pagan Poetry, “Hunter”, “Bachelorette”, “Play Dead”, “All is Full of Love”, Earth Intruders”, “Hyperballad”, Venus As a Boy”, It’s Oh so Quiet” and the title track.
I see spaceships and a set design by Tim Burton possessed by the spirit of Salvador Dali but maybe that’s just me…
2) Indie Bio Pic of Chevalier de St. George
Joseph Boulogne a.k.a Chevalier de Saint George was born on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 1745 to an enslaved mother and a French colonialist father. Saint George went on to become a musical and military leader in France. For his musical accomplishments he came to be called “Le Mozart Noir” or the black Mozart.
He had the popularity of Prince during his time, was obscenely rich, handsome, declared the best swordsman in Europe and bedded a who’s who list of French nobility (he even had a baby with a countess that was murdered by her husband). Queen Marie Antoinette was alsonsaid to be one of his many lovers because she was so obsessed with him.
Saint-George was an accomplished composer and violin virtuoso who was the first black man to lead France’s most important orchestras. Mozart was a child when he was at the height of his fame and wrote him fan letters. It is even said that he learned a few of techniques from Joseph Boulogne. Fortunately, he managed to survive the French Revolution and actually joined the army as a colonel before dying in obscurity in 1799.
I have listened to the work of both of these fantastic musicians on a regular basis for over a decade. They’re so Demimonde.

The Tao of Branding

There is a way or “Tao” behind everything, including branding. One of my favorite aspects of my job is doing brand consultations with creative, interesting people. I imagine being a brand consultant is similar to being a topiary artist, both specializing in transforming raw beauty into a recognizable shape to be interpreted by others. It’s a vocation that comes naturally to me as a person that loves to contemplate possibilities and brainstorming ideas. Recently, one of my clients asked me what I thought made me different than the thousands of brand consultants out there. It was a good question so I decided to write about it. 

Though I earned a degree in Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology, I honestly believe it is my experience as a fine artist/author/playwright that allows me to really connect with my clients on a deeper level. I not only advocate for arts & culture it is an integral part of my personal life. 

I know what it’s like to have something to say but being unsure about the best way to communicate such profound feelings to others and the anxiety that produces. It is because I comprehend the journey of a creative beyond mere theory that sets me apart. Every time I help one of my clients identify their purpose, values, strengths and passions to ensure their mission is clear it brings me joy. 

Creatives are usually a sensitive lot that wake up in a cold sweat at the idea of being perceived they’re like everybody else so we work closely together to create a compelling story that will resonate with their customer base.

If they get that far. 

Unfortunately, there are many creatives that are offended by the very concept of public relations because they are terrified of being transformed into a soulless commodity for mass consumption. Fortunately, no one ever has to be worried about that working with me since my clients are chosen specifically because they are doing something radically different. My Tao of branding is like the theory of applying makeup…to minimize imperfections and highlight a clients’ best features. 

Over the years I have met many brilliant people with ideas that could have literally changed the world consciously or subconsciously sabotage their careers for fear of being labelled a “sell-out” for promoting themselves. So they dim their light or remain stagnant in their comfort zone believing they are being noble instead of recognizing  fear for what it is.

That is exactly why I created Demimonde PR as a holistically supportive agency. I tell my clients all the time that marketing is the art of promoting fantasies more than products and if contemplated in that light than all of those fears will eventually diminish. Everyone has their own truth (fantasy) but creatives feel an intense desire to project their truth using a product to express that truth/fantasy to other people. As soon as an artifact is produced and shown to anyone else it ceases to be private so in essence the PR journey begins there. 

I believe that anyone that has been gifted with the ability to think outside of the box must exist to inspire conversation among those within it. Humanity has and always will need creatives or the species could never grow and evolve. I think creatives that wince at the idea of self promotion often forget how important they are in their role as midwives of change and the molders of culture.

They forget that ALL revolutionary ideas were first whispered in small, isolated spaces until the necessity  to emerge from the shadows eclipsed all fear of being misunderstood, alienated or criticized by the masses and even amongst their own. 

Bio pics, documentaries and history books only feature those that perceived the world differently, did things differently and had the clarity of purpose, guts and perseverance to accomplish their mission. However, if they (or someone working in their interest) had been unsure about their objective and failed to have a clear idea about how they would reach THE PEOPLE to help them accomplish their goals than nothing of note would have occurred. This is as true for George Washington or the McDonald Brothers. One went from being a simple farmer to becoming a national symbol is and the other went from being a little restaurant to selling one billion hamburgers a day during their lifetimes by understanding the importance of branding as more than a tool but a WAY. 

It is my pleasure to help brilliant minds find theirs.

The Tao of Branding

There is a way or “Tao” behind everything, including branding. One of my favorite aspects of my job is doing brand consultations with creative, interesting people. I imagine being a brand consultant is similar to being a topiary artist, both specializing in transforming raw beauty into a recognizable shape to be interpreted by others. It’s a vocation that comes naturally to me as a person that loves to contemplate possibilities and brainstorming ideas. Recently, one of my clients asked me what I thought made me different than the thousands of brand consultants out there. It was a good question so I decided to write about it.

Though I earned a degree in Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology, I honestly believe it is my experience as a fine artist/author/playwright that allows me to really connect with my clients on a deeper level. I not only advocate for arts & culture it is an integral part of my personal life.

I know what it’s like to have something to say but being unsure about the best way to communicate such profound feelings to others and the anxiety that produces. It is because I comprehend the journey of a creative beyond mere theory that sets me apart. Every time I help one of my clients identify their purpose, values, strengths and passions to ensure their mission is clear it brings me joy.

Creatives are usually a sensitive lot that wake up in a cold sweat at the idea of being perceived they’re like everybody else so we work closely together to create a compelling story that will resonate with their customer base.

If they get that far.

Unfortunately, there are many creatives that are offended by the very concept of public relations because they are terrified of being transformed into a soulless commodity for mass consumption. Fortunately, no one ever has to be worried about that working with me since my clients are chosen specifically because they are doing something radically different. My Tao of branding is like the theory of applying makeup…to minimize imperfections and highlight a clients’ best features.

Over the years I have met many brilliant people with ideas that could have literally changed the world consciously or subconsciously sabotage their careers for fear of being labelled a “sell-out” for promoting themselves. So they dim their light or remain stagnant in their comfort zone believing they are being noble instead of recognizing fear for what it is.

That is exactly why I created Demimonde PR as a holistically supportive agency. I tell my clients all the time that marketing is the art of promoting fantasies more than products and if contemplated in that light than all of those fears will eventually diminish. Everyone has their own truth (fantasy) but creatives feel an intense desire to project their truth using a product to express that truth/fantasy to other people. As soon as an artifact is produced and shown to anyone else it ceases to be private so in essence the PR journey begins there.

I believe that anyone that has been gifted with the ability to think outside of the box must exist to inspire conversation among those within it. Humanity has and always will need creatives or the species could never grow and evolve. I think creatives that wince at the idea of self promotion often forget how important they are in their role as midwives of change and the molders of culture.

They forget that ALL revolutionary ideas were first whispered in small, isolated spaces until the necessity to emerge from the shadows eclipsed all fear of being misunderstood, alienated or criticized by the masses and even amongst their own.

Bio pics, documentaries and history books only feature those that perceived the world differently, did things differently and had the clarity of purpose, guts and perseverance to accomplish their mission. However, if they (or someone working in their interest) had been unsure about their objective and failed to have a clear idea about how they would reach THE PEOPLE to help them accomplish their goals than nothing of note would have occurred. This is as true for George Washington or the McDonald Brothers. One went from being a simple farmer to becoming a national symbol is and the other went from being a little restaurant to selling one billion hamburgers a day during their lifetimes by understanding the importance of branding as more than a tool but a WAY.

It is my pleasure to help brilliant minds find theirs.

“Humor is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”
-Mary Hirsch

Recently a fool came into my life. I don’t mean that in the contemporary sense of the word indicating naïvety or stupidity but in a more classic way. The fool or jester was one of the most beloved members of the royal courts of antiquity on almost every continent. They were admired for their roguish behavior, quick wit and their ability to make even the haughtiest aristocrat laugh at themselves. The fool was a symbol of unlimited possibilities because unlike everyone else, they could publicly criticize a monarch without fear of imprisonment or execution. They said what others were thinking and by doing so provided a much-needed stress release.

Though we rarely refer to comedians as fools these days, their function has not changed. Comedy still is and presumably always will be a powerful medium to inspire self reflection and social change.

That’s why I am so grateful to be working with Suzanne Smith, the brainchild behind the comedic web-series “My Psychic Life”, a light hearted satire of the New Age Community.

In the last thirty years, the category of Americans that identify as “spiritual but not religious” has quadrupled as has interest in all things occult, esoteric, paranormal and holistic. All major Book publishers have a Mind, Body, Spirit imprint and soccer moms to Wall Street businessmen attend yoga and meditation classes. The New Thought/New Age movement has greatly altered the perceptions of Americans that don’t even classify themselves as New Age and I believe a satire is long overdue.

Of course, New Agers are not a monolithic group but there are certain archetypical personalities that one may encounter within it. As a former employee at one of the biggest Holistic learning centers on the East Coast of the United States, I have met them all and I can honestly say Suzanne Smith does a wonderful job spoofing those personalities. There is a notion among many in the New Age community that in order to be spiritual you have to be serious all the time and “My Psychic Life” reminds us all that it’s okay for even the most enlightened yogis, witches, healers and bodhisattvas to laugh at ourselves sometimes. For that message, Suzanne is one wise fool.

To view episodes of “My Psychic Life” visit www.saigewinters.com

Power and Balance 

People say our lives today are more stressful than ever but I disagree. I don’t believe in any “simpler times” because life has always been the same - an ongoing cycle of reaping sowing, loss and reward. I think it’s wiser to focus on how we can best maintain a healthy balance internally despite external conditions whether they are perceived as “bad” or “good”. The turmoils of the day in our own lives or society at large always boil down to power and it’s acquisition or lack thereof. If outward conditions determine whether we feel empowered than we are doomed to periods of crushing self doubt and anxiety about what will happen tomorrow. 

The key is to remember all of the times we stressed over a situation and triumphed over adversity despite the odds and keep going. When we do this than we always feel empowered, balanced and content because that is the foundation of hope, without which life would be unbearably tedious and sad. Any other attitude is akin to building sand castles on the beach. As human beings we only admire what is strong, everlasting, true and beautiful. Be this and never shall there be a total eclipse.

Power and Balance

People say our lives today are more stressful than ever but I disagree. I don’t believe in any “simpler times” because life has always been the same - an ongoing cycle of reaping sowing, loss and reward. I think it’s wiser to focus on how we can best maintain a healthy balance internally despite external conditions whether they are perceived as “bad” or “good”. The turmoils of the day in our own lives or society at large always boil down to power and it’s acquisition or lack thereof. If outward conditions determine whether we feel empowered than we are doomed to periods of crushing self doubt and anxiety about what will happen tomorrow.

The key is to remember all of the times we stressed over a situation and triumphed over adversity despite the odds and keep going. When we do this than we always feel empowered, balanced and content because that is the foundation of hope, without which life would be unbearably tedious and sad. Any other attitude is akin to building sand castles on the beach. As human beings we only admire what is strong, everlasting, true and beautiful. Be this and never shall there be a total eclipse.

Cameos and Desire

I wear cameos more often than most people in the 21st century and I have been asked several times why I have such a fondness for them. I always want to respond smartly to this question but I can never find the right words to explain my passion. Principally because I have never explored my feelings about it. Well, after being asked again today I have given it some thought.

A cameo is a portrait of a person, place or thing set in contrast to its background. It can communicate worlds in a relatively small space like a hieroglyph or a tweet. Cameo jewelry has been around so long they transcend space and time so every individual perceives them differently. One person may interpret my cameo ring, brooch or necklace as a homage to the mystery schools of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome or Medieval/ Renaissance Europe while another associates it with the Victorian Era or Steampunk subculture. I have had the most fascinating conversations with strangers related to these subjects because I’m wearing a cameo, dialogue I suppose would not have happened if I wasn’t. If I’m not in the mood to talk to people on any given day then I definitely don’t wear them. For me, they are an invitation to communicate with others. My inner romantic also likes that cameos were symbols of desire for centuries. What was desired depended on the individual and people made parlor games out of peering behind the veil.


Images (l to r): The ingenuous work of Amedeo Scognamiglio (he’s in NYC), Napoleon’s Coronation Crown circa 1804 (he adored them and opened up a school dedicated to their production), 17th century Portrait of an anonymous African King, Coral Cameo of Two Women circa. 1925, Pope Paul II (he had the largest collection of precious gems & cameos during the Renaissance), Queen Cleopatra who was well known for her Emerald obsession. In her day they represented love, fertility and rebirth and Portrait of a Modern Woman, unknown artist circa 2007.

Beautiful, Passionate and Untamed

I have been reading a lot about Tantra and the role of female Buddhas/angels (Dakini) for two years now. Principally because I have been contemplating getting a solar Dakini tattoo to balance the lunar male Buddha on my left forearm. Sure, I had plenty of opportunities to get it done but I wasn’t clear enough on what it meant to be genuinely illuminated, beautiful, passionate and untamed yet to feel comfortable enough to represent such a lofty concept. These are the requirements of ALL Dakinis and since I was still very much comfortable in the shadows, I didn’t commit. Now I’m ready. 

Last year around this time I decided to take a leap of faith and start Demimonde Public Relations because I couldn’t find an employer that welcomed a Dakini-energy like myself. I don’t work well within confines so I had no choice but to take responsibility for my own destiny and create the job I wanted. Naturally, some people thought I was crazy to turn down more stable opportunities but I believe that whatever keeps you off anti-depressants with eighty nine side effects is all you need. 

Now I am happy and working with awesome clients that contribute to the cultural conversation in interesting and dynamic ways. I think being a free publicist is noble because you are helping people that you genuinely believe have something worthwhile to offer humanity in this space and time. The word Dakini means “woman who flies” and I’m soaring high above the clouds of doubt that previously held me back.

Beautiful, Passionate and Untamed

I have been reading a lot about Tantra and the role of female Buddhas/angels (Dakini) for two years now. Principally because I have been contemplating getting a solar Dakini tattoo to balance the lunar male Buddha on my left forearm. Sure, I had plenty of opportunities to get it done but I wasn’t clear enough on what it meant to be genuinely illuminated, beautiful, passionate and untamed yet to feel comfortable enough to represent such a lofty concept. These are the requirements of ALL Dakinis and since I was still very much comfortable in the shadows, I didn’t commit. Now I’m ready.

Last year around this time I decided to take a leap of faith and start Demimonde Public Relations because I couldn’t find an employer that welcomed a Dakini-energy like myself. I don’t work well within confines so I had no choice but to take responsibility for my own destiny and create the job I wanted. Naturally, some people thought I was crazy to turn down more stable opportunities but I believe that whatever keeps you off anti-depressants with eighty nine side effects is all you need.

Now I am happy and working with awesome clients that contribute to the cultural conversation in interesting and dynamic ways. I think being a free publicist is noble because you are helping people that you genuinely believe have something worthwhile to offer humanity in this space and time. The word Dakini means “woman who flies” and I’m soaring high above the clouds of doubt that previously held me back.

Paradise Beyond Vanderbilt Gate

Flowers deeply inspire me. They nurture and give us so much pleasure in every way just for being what they are. They use no coercive methods to encourage engagement with them, that they leave for others to decide. They simply seek the light to sustain themselves and if other beings seek nourishment they are receptive and obliging.

That is why I can often be heard saying I live a “perfectly floral life”. I decided three years ago to simply bloom and face the sun until it is my time to return to the essence. It was always a goal to do so but I had not the courage to put into full practice until three years ago. In fact, my name means “A Beautiful flower” in Amharic and several other ancient East African languages. My mother is far from a nature enthusiast but she said somehow she “just knew” that’s what I should be called even though she had three higher ranking choices on her list of names above “Tayannah” (it was her 4th choice). I believe she was just in tune with the baby girl with the intense gaze she cradled in her arms.

Perhaps that’s why I am more productive when I work in a serene, natural setting. One of my favorite places to work is at the Harlem Meer conservatory gardens on 105th Street and Fifth avenue. Though there are several ways to enter, I prefer the initiatory experience of passing through the Vanderbilt Gate. Installed in 1939, it originally served as the entrance to the Vanderbilt Mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street (at the present site of the Bergdorf Goodman department store) until its demolition in 1927. It’s heralded as one of the best examples of wrought iron work in New York City. The gate was made by master craftsmen in Paris and was the talk of NY society for years after it’s unveiling. I feel like Alice when I step through the towering arch, entering into an unexplored world of scented walkways and crabapple trees.

There I sit, my contact sheets splayed across the Edwardian benches. There is my office, amidst statues of water nymphs, child-like fairies, cornelian cherries, peonies, tulips, chrysanthemums, irises hellebores and hollyhocks the far as my eyes can see. It is a paradise to be in the only formal public gardens in the tri-state area. Other people occasionally enter but they are usually just as dreamy-eyed as I am, seeking refuge from noise, chaos, A.I and profane chatter. The regulars all know each other but we never speak. We are all content to acknowledge each other with polite smiles and nods. Tourists are rare in Central Park North and the locals rarely stop to notice the single blushing lotus floating in the pond but merely seek a short cut to the exit on the other side.

This is a happy, yin space in a yang world that I am grateful to exist in and return to when Lady Winter recedes.

The Mardi Gras themed Poetry Brothel event was a smashing success! A very special thanks to C. Louise Laplaige and Avery from Kiki de Montparnasse, Kevin Daum and Van from Amilya talk radio and our distinguished guest, Jennifer Michael Hecht for adding panache to the evening.