Get Thee a Creative Director! And I Don’t Mean Joe Zee

What’s the new accessory du jour? What’s the must-have frippery of the moment? Brace yourselves! The new It bag is not a handbag at all.

It’s a person. The latest trendy consumer trophy is … drumroll … a CREATIVE DIRECTOR.

Not content with employing personal stylists, trainers, publicists, party planners and shamans, the spoiled socialites and grandes horizontales of the world have now added “creative director” to their roster of minions-I-can’t-function-without. (Sort of like Elle’s Joe Zee. But different.)

For an example of this I-know-I-look-like-a-stripper-but-I’m-really-a-lifestyle-brand phenomenon, search no further than Bravo’s new show, The Real Housewives of Atlanta. This gorgeous piece of telly has not only eclipsed its sister shows—The Real Housewives of Orange County and New York City respectively—it’s become the mainstay of Manhattan dinner party chatter. Everywhere I went last week people were gasping over the audacious self-indulgent antics of Sheree (she of the on-staff creative director), Nene, DeShawn, Lisa Wu and Kim (she’s the super-trampy Caucasian member of the team with the ramparts of fake blond hair).

Questions abound: Why was Nene’s name omitted from Sheree’s birthday party guest list? Who is the mysterious “Big Poppa” and what acts does the pornographically busty Kim have to perform in order to ensure that he continues to keep her in Cadillac Escalades? Why, since she employs someone to perform every conceivable daily action, is DeShawn constantly complaining about being exhausted? Though she does not currently have her own creative director—what little energy she has is spent trying to hire an “estate manager” to relieve her of any and all interaction with her massive staff—I feel that it is only a matter of time.

Please don’t knock these craven, uncultivated, whore-ishly attired self-involved wonderful ladies. Don’t talk trash about them. We need The Real Housewives of Atlanta right now. Despite the jarringly superficial materialism exhibited throughout wthis show, Nene and Co. are performing a profound and vital function: It’s called consumer confidence. By displacing cocktail chatter about the impending recession/depression, the R. H. of A.’s allow us to sleep at night. With their oblivious self-indulgence, they, like a certain other Southern belle, rekindle our optimism and help us remember that tomorrow is, indeed, another day.

What makes these tarted-up Scarlett O’Haras so compelling? Here’s my theory: These women are fascinating because they are simultaneously totally contemporary and wildly out of date. They may dress like Tara Reid, but their approach to life has more in common with 19th-century courtesans: Think Zola’s Nana, or Balzac’s Madame Marneffe, or Edith Wharton’s Undine Spragg. Sex equals jewels, carriages and a chateau or deux.

Oblivious to any and all notions of contemporary feminism, these gals devote their days to cultivating their feminine allure—with the help of their creative directors—and then, when it’s ripe and luscious, they hang a big old price tag on it. It’s love for sale. It’s packaging. It’s the creation of desire. It’s advertising.

Bonjour, all you recently laid-off Madison Avenue creative directors! What are you waiting for? Hop a Trailways bus and head south. Nene or DeShawn are waiting for you.

sdoonan@observer.com

Get Thee a Creative Director! And I Don’t Mean Joe Zee