Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Book Review: "Power Up" by Magdalena Yesil

Review: Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy
by Magdalena Yesil
(Review copy provided courtesy of the publisher)

Magdalena Yesil travelled from Turkey to the United States to go to college and became a pioneering entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Most recently, she’s known for early investment in Salesforce, now a multibillion dollar company and cofounder of Broadway Angels, a group of female investors that invest in start-ups.

Power Up is written for women building careers in tech, but really, it is applicable to anyone building a professional or business career. Yesil offers realistic advice about building a career in male dominated business including guidance on topics that people (but especially women) can struggle with, like sexual dynamics, getting credit for work and pay imbalances among other things.

It’s an effortless book to devour, mostly because Yesil’s voice comes through clear, personal and genuine. Her story is inspiring and you are immediately drawn into the recounting of her early life and her decision to move to America and what happened as she started out in the tech world.

Yesil suggests throughout the book that we be like water, that we be flexible when we come up against things in our paths. This advice is pulled from a Turkish tradition she describes, that when someone starts a journey, the neighbourhood throws buckets of water behind them as they walk or drive away. Yesil describes this as a way to say “May you be like water – easily flowing past any obstacle.” It’s a recurring theme in the book, and it works quite well. Water never gives up and it always seems to find any opening, no matter how small, to succeed in its path. Yesil drives this home.
In the book, Yesil states facts and statistics plainly. Steadfast in her acceptance of the obstacles women face in business she is equally firm in her belief that you can “flow past” anything. 

She easily points out truths for women in male-dominated business, backing these truths up with facts and/or experiences that would easily deflect any naysaying objections (e.g. women tend to underestimate themselves and tend to lack sustaining self-belief) but she never treats these truths as excuses. Yesil simply states them as difficulties - obstacles that can be reflected upon and overcome. She recounts examples of how she has overcome problems and provides actionable advice from her own life, and also the lives of other female tech pioneers.

Yesil discusses sexual harassment. She clearly states sexual harassment is a crime, but she also offers ways to navigate sexual innuendo, sexual dynamics and “boys club” behaviour in a male dominated business world, without taking on guilt or repercussions. She offers ways to include yourself in the boys club, and ways to modify unprofessional behaviour inflicted on you in clever ways that will empower you.

She gives much needed reinforcement to women who have experienced a setback in their careers. She gives the advice to “give ourselves latitude when we screw up” which is important because many women still feel they need to be perfect in spaces that don’t necessarily include them, or where there are very few women working.

Yesil also gives tips such as how to negotiate pay (very important while the gender pay gap still exists). While money is not the be all and end all, and many people (especially women) define job satisfaction by whether we like our jobs, or our colleagues, Yesil very wisely points out that these goals “are not in line with what the business world uses to divvy up success and power”.

Throughout the book, Yesil encourages women to reach out to both to men and women, and build a support network. And once you build it and achieve any success, you should bring others up with you. She seems a great proponent of the idea it’s lonely at the top so you should bring other women with you.

She also hammers home that what you need to succeed is an unrelenting belief in yourself, an awareness and a willingness to think outside the box to find ways around obstacles that hinder your success. Yesil pushes the idea that women take themselves for granted, and we have more power to change and grow, career-wise, than we think we do. What she’s written aims at peeling back layers of socially inflicted self-doubt to allow ourselves a chance to confidently succeed without holding ourselves back.

All in all, it was a very positive and enjoyable read.

Review by Tee Linden.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Lillian Gish: The First Lady of American Cinema

Lillian Gish was one of the most influential and famous actors in Hollywood’s history. Her first film was in 1912 and a career spanning seventy-five years followed. Gish’s partnership with pioneering director D. W. Griffith is regarded as one of the greatest collaborative relationships of all time. Some of their films include Way Down East (1920), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919) and the controversial, and highest grossing film of the silent era, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Not only having a successful acting career, Gish was also a writer, director and producer. She received an honorary Academy Award in 1971. As the years passed, the media dubbed Gish “The First Lady of American Cinema.”

Lillian Diana Gish was born on the 14th of October, 1893, in Springfield, Ohio. Her father left when she was young. Running low on money and with nowhere else to turn, Gish’s mother, Mary, and her daughters joined a group of traveling actors. Gish and her sister, Dorothy, made their stage debuts in 1902. They proved to be extremely popular in melodramas, making $10 a week for their efforts. (No figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation.) The three women travelled all over America, taking any roles they could and saving every cent possible. It was during this period Gish met future silent screen legend Mary Pickford and the two became lifelong friends.

In 1912, Gish and Dorothy appeared before a camera for the first time in An Unseen Enemy. Pickford had previously introduced Griffith to the sisters and he decided to give them a go. On set, Griffith thought the two women were twins and found it hard to distinguish them apart at a distance. He gave them different coloured hair ribbons; blue for Gish and red for Dorothy. Griffith very much enjoyed working with the two, especially Gish. He cast them often in his one- and two-reel shorts. Gish appeared in near forty silent shorts between 1912 and 1914. She received universal acclaim for her performance as The Young Wife in The Mothering Heart (1913).

Dorothy and Gish in An Unseen Enemy (1912)

As silent films became more sophisticated and had longer run times, Gish starred in many of Griffith’s signature feature films. In 1915, she was cast as Elise Stoneman in The Birth of a Nation. The film was a critical success, but drew a lot of controversy for its negative depictions of African-Americans. It had white people dressed up in blackface. Gish stayed clear from commenting on the issues, but always defended that it was never Griffith’s intention to be racist.

Dorothy, Griffith and Gish

In the climax of Way Down East, Gish, Griffith and the film crew shot on a real frozen river during a blizzard. Gish had to dangle her hand and hair in freezing cold water for hours at a time. She never once complained and crew members noticed how dedicated to the role she was. Though the scene is now regarded as one of the greatest in Hollywood’s history, Gish would experience health concerns for the rest of her life. She lost partial feeling in her hand. Gish’s last film with Griffith was Orphans of the Storm in 1922.

Gish on the ice in Way Down East (1920)

Gish directed her first and only movie in 1920. The film, Remodelling Her Husband, starred her sister Dorothy. With no known footage existing today, it is now considered a lost film. Around this period, Gish supervised the construction of a new film studio for Griffith too.

Photoplay Magazine (December, 1921)

In 1924, Gish signed a $800,000 picture deal with MGM. This made her one of the highest paid and sought after actors in Hollywood at the time. Under MGM, Gish appeared in classics such as The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928). She made her “talkie” film debut in One Romantic Night in 1930.

By the early 1930s, Gish and MGM’s relationship had broken down and they parted ways. She returned to the theatre and focused her attention there. Gish also had her radio debut in the early 1930s. She scarcely acted in films during this period. In 1948, Gish appeared on television for the first time. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Duel in the Sun (1946). Gish also received critical praise for The Night of the Hunter (1955).

Gish accepting her Oscar in 1971

Gish was active in films throughout the 1960s to 1980s. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. As part of the pre-production for the western The Unforgiven (1960), director John Huston and star Bert Lancaster intended to teach Gish how to shoot. They were shocked to discover she already knew and was quicker and more accurate than them both.

Gish and Davis in The Whales of August (1987)

In 1987, Gish starred along side Bette Davis in The Whales of August. At 93-years-old, this made Gish the oldest actress ever to star in a leading role. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 27, 1993. Every year on Gish’s birthday, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, show at least one of her films as a tribute.

By: Matthew J. Healy


50 Facts About Lillian Gish - The First Lady of American Cinema (http://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/105983/20160119/50-facts-lillian-gish-first-lady-american-cinema.htm)
Charles Affron - Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life (Book)
Lillian Gish, 99, a Movie Star Since Movies Began, is Dead (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/01/movies/lillian-gish-99-a-movie-star-since-movies-began-is-dead.html?pagewanted=all)
Lillian Gish - Encyclopaedia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lillian-Gish)
Lillian Gish - IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001273/)
Lillian Gish: The Actor’s Life for Me (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/lillian-gish-about-lillian-gish/614/)
Lillian Gish - Women Film Pioneers Project (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-lillian-gish/)

The Official Website of Lillian Gish (https://www.lilliangish.com/)

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