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project thievery

a tasteful thief special edition 

When setting the schedule for this column I knew I wanted to do two paid posts per month with the occasional free post to help me gain new subscribers. Choosing the first and third Sunday of each month meant I would occasionally have a fifth Sunday!

In this Special Edition of a tasteful thief I wanted to take the column’s general idea, teasing out what to thieve from the media I consume, and make it literal.

So, I have chosen to steal:

  1. An article premise
  2. A drawing
  3. Corner office space organisation
  4. An Instagram photo

And here are my spoils:

Who knew thievery would be this hard?

This was the one I was most looking forward to when I set myself these tasks, probably because I am a writer. However, it took me a shockingly long time to find an actual article with an actual premise that I could steal.

I went to a site that I’ve dreamed of writing for, only to find mostly lists of products and other marketing-y things. I cannot steal the premise of “these are the best Korean skincare products for summer” because no one sends me Korean skincare products to review. When did lists of products (beauty, fashion, tech, etc…) become articles?

On another site I came across this mind-numbing article: How To Wear All Black In Summer Without Looking Like You’ve Made A Mistake

Black gets a bad rap in summer, too. Wearing it often looks like you’ve made a mistake, as if you put it on in the morning when it was cloudy and now the sun’s come out you’re feeling silly for being so…moody.

That sounds like very much a you problem and not so much a style ‘mistake.’

Calling someone else’s incredibly personal choice of clothing a ‘mistake’ sounds innocent but is actually super rude and infantilising. As if the person in question didn’t deliberately choose those items to wear, just like you chose yours.

Ok, sure, putting on mismatched socks is most likely a mistake. But when someone has put together a whole outfit, or ‘look’, no matter what they look like to you they did not make a ‘mistake.’

Also, what is wrong with being ‘so…moody’ in summer anyway?

Hey, is this why I am not writing for these publications? Because I want to write substantive articles that don’t shame women into looking like clones?

Enough media criticism, here is the article I am stealing:

Annie Walton Doyle examines what happens when beauty turns from an option into an obligation

I did not read the article to make sure I’m only stealing the premise, so here is how I, Rachel B Velebny, would write the article:

Women who wear makeup at work are paid more than women who do not, and they are also seen as more competent than their bare-faced peers.

Men who say they prefer ‘no makeup’ don’t actually know what that looks like because they’re basing their concept of ‘no makeup’ on highly edited and filtered images of women who are wearing makeup.

Of course beauty – wearing makeup and doing your hair – is an obligation.

When I worked at a restaurant whilst in university my manager treated me better when I spent a lot of time on my hair and makeup. When I decided to try out a more natural look (while still wearing makeup) she would ask if I was ill. Which is doubly hilarious since she didn’t let me call in sick when I had bronchitis and literally no speaking voice. The capitalist patriarchy is insidious like that.

And it is simply not fair that women must spend more time and money (haha remember the gender pay gap) on looking aesthetically pleasing and, crucially, on-trend.

I honestly don’t know how we can get men to stop objectifying women, which is the root cause of their assumed entitlement to dictate how women paint our faces, but when it comes to beauty maybe women can start with each other. There are gross forums on the internet dedicated to shaming women’s makeup application based on sneaky photos snapped of them while they’re just trying to live their lives. It isn’t men who are complaining that a random woman doesn’t blend her blush like a professional makeup artist.

Women can start with giving each other room to have regular-woman beauty routines, including days where life takes precedence over makeup. We can reject the ridiculous norms that keep women living in shame because they don’t look like a photoshopped model.

As AOC pointedly put it in her recent Vogue Get Ready With Me, “who has the norm been serving?”

Who benefits from makeup being obligatory? Not women. Maybe a handful of luxury beauty brand owners, but not women who have rent or mortgages to pay, children to raise, and money to make.

Of course, beauty is obligatory labour, for all women.

My Worst Artistic Skill

I consider myself a creative person and I know I have some artistic skill when it comes to writing, dancing, and musicality, but I absolutely cannot draw. I cannot look at an object and then draw it on paper. My brain does not move images around like that.

Do I let that stop me from trying? No! Because laughing at my silly drawings is a simple pleasure.

One of my favourite artists on Instagram regularly does cartoons for The New Yorker and I love her simple, sharp style of humour and drawing.

When I came upon the original I knew that I needed to steal that concept and see what I could come up with, comedically and artistically.

Here is her original:

And here is what I did with the concept:

Despite their original intent, neither drawing made me laugh. Seeing the original and trying to come up with mine made me think about everyday situations in which I have been trained to be accommodating. The toughest part was picking one that would be fairly simple to draw, to suit both my skills and the spirit of the original piece.

One time a man asked me for a high-five as he walked by in a surprise double shot of misogyny combining his perceived entitlement to see me smile and to physically touch me. My little cartoon is how I wish I could handle these situations.


If you came here from Instagram then you have already seen this iteration of thievery.

I always feel so awkward when posing for photos so I wanted to find a pose and general location that I could successfully copy. Just like the office organisation, I kept in mind my neighbourhood and what I do have access to so that I wouldn’t linger on photos that might make me feel like a failure for not having a house with a pool.

I picked out two different shots and when Tom and I were out I asked him to help me recreate the pictures.

The originals:

And here are mine:

My favourite is the one on the street curb. I feel super uncomfortable smiling in photos and I feel like I look much more natural with a small, closed mouth smile.

I enjoyed trying to recreate the two different posts and I will definitely try and use these two locations again. Especially the corner with all the lovely plants!

Even when I set out to directly steal different creative works I couldn’t help personalising them a little, making adjustments until I felt as good as I had hoped to.

I hate over-used phrases, but comparison really is the thief of joy. I do my best to be the thief myself by scrolling social media with an eye for stealing, rather than comparing.

And that, dear readers, is how I steal all my best ideas.

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