Haut Takes

I write about music, politics and pop culture.

Brazil's Health Goes the Way of Hefner

Hey y’all,

This week’s edition of Haut Takes comes fresh from the city’s Lululemon flagship showroom- SoulCycle. I deeply want to be impervious to the charms of SoulCycle. It’s expensive. Its premise is objectively ridiculous. It is mostly filled with people that say things like, “I just wish every class could be Taylor Swift themed.” I indulge every few months (more often now that there is one within walking distance of my apartment, making the gentrification of Flatbush Avenue 88% complete), and always enter anticipating the need to forcibly shove through a pack of whatever Swift fans call themselves these days. But then the lights go down, the music comes up and each tap back chips away at my cold, cold heart. I walk out feeling like a whole new woman, who might say things like “THAT WAS EVERYTHING” and would even enjoy a Taylor Swift themed spin class. Then I quickly get my bearings as a gaggle of giggling participants gathers directly in front of the towel depository, as if it is a bistro table at a Starbucks- not a laundry receptacle that 50 people need to drop their sweaty towels into. I’m instantly returned to my body and remember that I am not a woman who giggles (especially while working out) and I will always hate Taylor Swift no matter how many blissfully psuedospiritual spin classes I take. And tonight, I am a woman who has a newsletter to write.

Haut Takes comes to you a few minutes early this week. I jet off to San Diego on Thursday for Ladycation with three Haut Takes subscribers (Hey Babes!), so I am pressuring myself to complete 5 days of work in 3. It has been an interesting case study in both priorities and capacity.  First, TG for this.

I. A Note on Vegas:

I honestly haven’t taken the time to process this yet. I have purposely avoided political responses, think pieces and profiles of the perpetrator until it feels less emotionally raw. So tune in for more next week. In the meantime, I would suggest watching Jimmy Kimmel’s cold open in its entirety. It is sincerely sad and honest (two reasons why Vulture says Kimmel is currently the most important Late Night host). If you don’t have time to watch the whole nine minutes, the video’s poignancy lies in this line: “Common sense says no good can come of allowing someone to have weapons that can take down 527 innocent Americans at a concert.”

II. This Week’s Articles:

Article 1: In their September 16th issue, The New York Times investigated “How Big Business got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food”. This article is the first in a global health series that examines the effect corporate food structure has on developing countries. In as brief of a summary that I can confine myself to, Nestle now controls a large share of the country’s food distribution channels, which has impacted Brazil in two notable ways:

  •  It has benefited the economy by providing steady employment to the former jobless while increasing access to affordable food in rural and impoverished areas.
  • This access to highly processed, sugar and fat packed foods has also grossly increased the obesity rate in Brazil (think 2.5X growth between 1980-2015) and number of Brazilians with diabetes, particularly children.
  • Nestle’s argument is that their products are a social good because they allow families to keep the fridge full while also making money peddling these products. This motivation is questionable given the article’s analysis of Nestle’s sway with politicians who have direct control over nutrition regulations and food distribution (relevant Kimmel quote, Nestle “has their balls in a money clip”).
Shocking Pull Quote: Across the world, more people are now obese than underweight. At the same time, scientists say, the growing availability of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods is generating a new type of malnutrition, one in which a growing number of people are both overweight and undernourished”

Article 2: And from the West Coast, read the LA Times’ obituary of Hugh Hefner (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) I generally find him, and the entire Playboy enterprise, fascinating, even more so after his death. Obviously, he created the mythical world where men are sophisticated Peter Pans and women are just accessories to that lifestyle (in the article Playboy women are described as “unthreatening and frolicsome”- whatever the hell that means). On the other hand, Playboy Magazine has been host to A LOT of respected writing (albeit from mostly male writers) and Hefner was an adamant defender of free speech. This article poses the question of what will be Hef’s lasting legacy? The answer seems to be in the eye of the beholder. Here are some things I learned in this obit:

  •  Playboy featured a short story by Ray Bradbury that became Fahrenheit 451 AND launched the writing career of Alex Haley who wrote an article for Playboy that inspired him to co-write The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
  • Hefner’s parents were repressed Puritans who withheld emotion and considered sex shameful (this one is not at all surprising, and in fact explains a lot).
  • His first wife, whom he was married to from 1949-1959, had an affair during their engagement. Hefner was later quoted as saying that experience shaped his entire life, saying If you don’t commit. You don’t get hurt.” (Again, not surprising but explains a lot)
  • Hefner did not put his name anywhere in the first issue of Playboy (which featured nude pictures of Marilyn Monroe) in case it failed. It did not. At the height of its distribution in the 1970s it was selling 7 million print copies a month.
 Interesting Click Throughs: Hefner on continuing to write about the sexual revolution during the AiDS crisis of the 1980s and what Marilyn Monroe would probably really think about spending eternity buried next to Hef.


As you all should definitely know, NBC’s revival of Will & Grace debuted last week. I spent last Friday night re-watching it twice while eating chocolate covered almonds and drinking wine like all the other hip 29 year olds in Brooklyn. And honestly… it was fucking fascinating. I took notes. Here are my takeaways:

Will & Grace of the late 90s/ early 00s iteration made up a slice of the pizza pie that was my perception of NYC. It was almost a voyeuristic look into how I thought all grownups lived in the big city (it’s not). There was something about Will’s hunter green, street level office, with its eternal view of the disembodied ankles of hurried New Yorkers, that always stuck with me. That office is still Will’s in today’s version, it is still green, and Will is still handsome as hell. In fact the entire episode seems to still be stuck in episodes of the past. There is the laugh track, Will’s gorgeous apartment that he still shares with Grace, Karen’s exploited addiction to painkillers, and Jack’s peppering of Will with hilariously cruel insults (example, “nasty, lonely, balding middle-aged gay”). There were only a few indications that this episode does not take place in 1998. One being the Mac desktops in Grace’s office manned by an ethnically ambiguous millennial. The most glaring being Trump, so much Trump.

This episode centers around the Trump presidency, and the characters’ responses to it. They are realistically in tune with each’s characterization. Will uses the guise of political activism to meet an attractive gay representative, Jack outs most of the Secret Service, Grace neurotically agonizes over the morality of decorating the Oval Office, and Karen has a direct line to her “social contact” Melania and her “night terrors”. The writers deftly use the show as a platform to take their digs, including Grace holding up a Cheeto next to a fabric swatch to make sure it matches with the occupant’s “coloring”. The episode ends with the camera’s slow approach to the red “Make America Gay Again” hat Grace left perched atop the Cheeto’s chair. This closing image reflects the show’s self-awareness of its impact on the evolution of gay culture while still being a big middle finger to the current administration. I honestly can’t wait to see where they go from here.

IV. Music:

I’ll leave y’all with direct access to my current Spotify playlist. It’ll shape shift throughout the Fall. Its title reflects my surprise that this year is almost over. (Yes, there is a Kesha song on it. Yes, it is off brand. Yes, it is great.)

V. For Funsies:

If you’re looking for something to take your mind off of the horrors hinted at in this newsletter, here is every Frank Ocean lyric Issa Rae used in this season of Insecure and every Drake lyric she included in season 1 scripts (something else I took notes on while watching TV).

Finally, here is a GIF of a puppy falling asleep (sorry, Gill)

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Haut Out

Alexis HautComment