LOS ANGELES — On a recent sunny afternoon, Demi Lovato emerged from a black tractor-size SUV and made her way onto a stage set up at the Grove, an upscale outdoor mall here, where she was to perform at the opening of a new Topshop. As screaming Lovatics (as Ms. Lovato’s fans proclaim themselves) flashed iPhones and waved Magic Marker signs at the pop star, she looked a little sheepish. This was understandable: her right foot was encased in a black silver-studded cast that resembled a giant ski boot.

But as Ms. Lovato hobbled over to the microphone, dressed in a biker jacket and tight black pants, she overcame the awkwardness, her dark-painted lips breaking into a dazzling smile.

“I’m feeling great,” she yelled to the crowd, gamely kicking her injured foot into the air before launching into her chart-topping song “Give Your Heart a Break.” “I’m ready to rock!”

Embracing unairbrushed moments has become a defining characteristic of Ms. Lovato, 20, one that has helped propel her back into the spotlight after a sudden fall from grace (in late 2010, she entered rehab for issues related to an eating disorder and cutting) that brought her career, which accelerated on the Disney Channel, to a halt.

Rather than adhere to the Hollywood playbook of dismissing or softening the facts, Ms. Lovato has openly aired her troubles, tweeting to her 12 million fans about how she spent New Year’s Eve in rehab, and talking to Katie Couric about feeling fat while still in diapers.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

IN 2005, Kenneth Lander, a lawyer in Monroe, Ga., moved with his wife, stepdaughter and the youngest three of his seven children to a coffee farm in San Rafael de Abangares, Costa Rica. He always “had a heart,” he said, for Latin America, and after a vacation to the lush cloud forests near Monteverde in 2004, he was determined to return on a more permanent basis.

 He was also looking for more balance in his work-driven life. And so, after buying a coffee farm from a farmer he’d met on his earlier trip, he packed up his life and moved.

“It was like Swiss Family Robinson,” Mr. Lander jokes. “We just left.”

In Costa Rica, Mr. Lander, who is now 46, didn’t have to worry about making money. He had received a cash windfall from selling a portion of a residential subdivision he had helped develop in Georgia; the plan was to keep selling more lots and live off the proceeds. So he grew coffee for fun.

 Read the rest at the New York Times.

Jason Kilar’s vision for Hulu transformed web video. So why is Hulu in trouble and Kilar rumored to be on his way out? Because his vision transformed web video.

It’s an unseasonably warm summer day, and Jason Kilar is “in the zone,” as he puts it, buzzing around his Santa Monica, California, headquarters, putting the final touches on a massive redesign of Hulu, the streaming TV and movie service he runs. Despite the heat, and despite a deadline that is only weeks away, the boyish 41-year-old CEO looks calm and collected. (He always looks this way, actually.) He’s dressed in his uniform of jeans and a dark blue T-shirt peeking out from under an über-starched button-down, and his thick turf of hair is cut in what looks like a $17 mow from Fantastic Sam’s. As he natters on about the new site, walking me through its tray-style layout and a feature that lets you pick up exactly where you last left off watching a show, it’s easy to see why people liken him to a grown-up Boy Scout. “This morning we had a 45-minute debate on the amount of gradient on the sticky header!” Kilar boasts, standing in a cluttered warren of darkened offices from which members of the design team periodically emerge, blinking like moles. Kilar’s obsession with user experience–one source says it borders on “maniacal”–is a large part of why Hulu has created a service that customers have deemed “brain-spray awesome.”

But as Kilar frets about the opacity of a tiny black line and the exact placement of a button, Hulu’s corporate parents–News Corp.Disney, and Comcast/NBCUniversal–are fretting about Hulu. The day before Kilar’s redesign was finally unveiled, Varietypublished excerpts from an internal memo that had been circulating among those owners. One of the bullet points: “Outline transition plan for new CEO. Discuss potential candidates and process.” Kilar, who just three years ago was the wunderkind of digital media, now appears to be on the verge of being dispatched by his bosses–after which they may dismantle much of what he’s created at Hulu.

 Read the rest at Fast Company.

“SOME people say: ‘Maude Apatow is my spirit animal.’ I get that a lot,” Maude Apatow said. “They tweet it to me.” Over a coconut milk smoothie at Café Gratitude, the trendy vegan restaurant on Larchmont Boulevard here, Maude was describing the rather intense fascination she has inspired on Twitter, where she has over 62,000 followers.

That may not compare to Lady Gaga’s total, but considering she is a 14-year-old just out of braces, not a celebrity and not someone who has done anything outrageous on YouTube, it’s an impressive fan base.

Of course, Maude, who has long chestnut-colored hair, a pale delicate frame and a face that is at once cherubic and knowing, is not a complete nobody. Her father is Judd Apatow, Hollywood’s comedy king, whose imprimatur is on wildly successful comedies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which he wrote, directed and produced, and “Bridesmaids,” which he produced.

And her mother is Leslie Mann, the blond, willowy actress who has starred in several of her husband’s films, most notably “Funny People,” in which she played the tempestuous ex-girlfriend of a comedian (played by Adam Sandler) who finds out he has cancer. Maude was also in that film, along with her younger sister, Iris, playing the daughters of Ms. Mann’s character, which they had done before in “Knocked Up.”

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AN iPad case that doubles as a teething toy? Yes, such a product exists. It’s known as the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case (also available for iPods and iPhones) and it sells for $35. It’s well known that children are quick to learn new technology. But 6-month-olds? How did the idea arise for a toy that allows its user to gnaw on its brightly colored handles and drool on its protective screen, while also manipulating apps for counting and singing?

At Fisher-Price, such products result from a process known as spelunking, which in its literal sense means to explore caves. But in the realm of toy making, it refers to the simple act of watching children play.

A similar process is alive and well at other companies, like LeapFrog, maker of the LeapPad, a touchscreen tablet for children as young as 3; and at Hasbro and Crayola, which have partnered with digital media companies to create apps for very young children.

At Fisher-Price, “we bring babies in with their moms and watch them at play with different types of apps, different types of products,” said Deborah Weber, senior manager of infant research. Her job, she said, is to “understand the ages and stages of babies — what they can and can’t do, what their interests are, and the growing needs of families today.”

Read the rest at the New York Times.

CAMERON HUGHES sees nothing romantic about being a winemaker. Having a rolling vineyard to call his own? Taking that first sip of a homegrown pinot noir? He can live without it, thanks — and he does, even as he has become a prominent name in the California wine industry.

Mr. Hughes, who started by selling wine out of the back of his Volvo station wagon in 2002, is a wine négociant, or wine merchant. He does not own a vineyard or a winery. Instead, from offices in San Francisco and Calistoga, Calif., he outsources all the labor that goes into making a bottle of wine — growing the grapes, crushing and fermenting them, and other steps in the process — to others.

“All we do is bring the barrels,” Mr. Hughes said.

Actually, he does a bit more than that. During the worldwide wine glut of the recent recession, his company, Cameron Hughes Wine, flourished as he bought up excess wine from wineries, repackaged it under his own label and sold it at a discount.

Read the rest at the New York Times

WHEN the London-based members-only social club Soho House opened a branch in New York’s meatpacking district almost a decade ago, it seemed to confer a sense of exclusivity and festivity to a neighborhood that was radically reinventing itself. Raucous parties were held at the rooftop pool, where an invitation to lunch made one feel puffed out with self-importance; Harvey Weinstein showed films privately in the screening room; attractive women tottered toward the entrance in Jimmy Choo shoes.

But over the years, the club has struggled to settle into its identity in a night-life scene that has become more laid-back and roughhewn, with entries like the Ace Hotel in Midtown and Roberta’s over the bridge in Bushwick stealing much of the buzz.

When Soho House became inundated with bankers and other social undesirables, a sign was put in the lobby showing a red line through the image of a suit. Some memberships were not renewed in 2010 as management attempted to purge the club’s image as a happy-hour hot spot for hedge-fund managers on their way home to New Jersey. (A visit at 5 p.m. on the Friday of this past Memorial Day weekend found men in sweat pants joking with the lobby staff, and one stocky woman exiting carrying a Lord & Taylor bag.) And the death of the designer Sylvie Cachay there later in 2010 seemed an especially dark coda; it resulted in more news coverage than the club had received in years.

Soho House’s chief executive, Nick Jones, who founded the club in 1995, now oversees 10 Soho Houses (six in Britain, three in the United States and one in Berlin), all of which adhere to a strict, Royal-Geographical-Society-meets-Dwell-Magazine design aesthetic. (One echoed in his finely tailored but untucked shirts and designer jeans.)

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“SHE signed it for me — she is so cute! So sweet!” the designer Tadashi Shoji gushed as he lovingly clutched a piece of paper to his chest. On it was the original sketch he had made of the gown that the actress Octavia Spencer had worn to the Academy Awards in February. Next to the drawing of the gown, an elaborately draped white sheath covered in sparkly beads, Ms. Spencer had signed her name, along with the words: “Love you!”

Ms. Spencer would go on to take home an Oscar for her supporting role in “The Help.” But even if she hadn’t, her dress would have been a winner on Hollywood’s biggest night, landing her on many a best-dressed list. In addition to its feminine elegance, the garment was praised for the way it transformed Ms. Spencer’s voluptuous curves into more slimming contours.

“She’s not a thin-thin girl, so I had to give the illusion of her as tall and thin,” said Mr. Shoji, 64.

The diminutive Japanese designer, whose close-cropped hair is speckled with gray, was at his studio near downtown Los Angeles, sitting in a Zen-like showroom that was minimally decorated with an orchid and Japanese art. The only blast of color was Mr. Shoji himself, who was wearing a cobalt blue cardigan and a pink polo shirt buttoned up to his neck.

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It had seemed like the perfect setting for a chat with a young Hollywood actress: Café Gratitude, one of those Los Angeles hang-outs populated by hipsters sporting vintage T-shirts and carefully manicured facial hair, where the vegan menu touts dishes called ‘I Am Peace’ and ‘I Am Connected’.
But when Elisabeth Moss, aka Peggy Olson, the ambitious copywriter on the cultishly beloved television series Mad Men, breezes in wearing a chic ensemble of skinny jeans and slim black blazer, a Mulberry messenger bag slung artfully across one shoulder, she seems immediately out of place.
It’s as if Audrey Hepburn has descended on a peace rally. (Any notions that Moss might resemble Peggy – who as the show’s resident goody two-shoes is sentenced to a strenuously sensible wardrobe – are quickly put to rest.)
Things get worse when Moss politely asks the waitress for a Diet Coke, the equivalent of asking a Buddhist monk for a slab of raw pork. ‘I’m sorry, we don’t…’ the waitress apologises. ‘Do you have anything with caffeine?’ Moss tries again, her blue eyes twinkling with good nature. ‘Uh…’ A compromise is reached with iced coffee, though in lieu of the requested cream on the side (no dairy allowed here), Moss settles for coconut milk. ‘I’m obviously not a good vegan,’ she jokes.

Read the rest at The Independent

ON a recent morning, Bear Grylls, the star of the Discovery Channel survivor show “Man vs. Wild,” was dressed in a rugged ensemble of army-green work shirt and cargo pants, a no-nonsense knife strapped to one leg. Standing in the middle of a pine forest with his jaw purposefully clenched, he looked ready for battle.

Alas, there were no snakes or grizzly bears to wrangle into submission. Mr. Grylls, 37, was not in the Rockies fending for his life, but less than an hour from Los Angeles, filming a commercial for Degree deodorant.

Not that it was any easier than filming his TV show, which drops Mr. Grylls in the most God-forsaken pockets of the planet and watches him face off against blinding ice storms and insect-drenched jungles. “It’s quite difficult,” he said, walking away from the cameras after what felt like the 80th take, a pair of young makeup artists in skinny jeans trailing behind him.

Lately, this kind of “labor” has been taking up more of Mr. Grylls’s time, as he finds himself transitioning from a wacky British television character known for drinking his own urine and sleeping inside a dead camel (for hydration and warmth, respectively), into a more mainstream celebrity.

Dockers recently selected Mr. Grylls as the face of its campaign, which features the boyishly handsome adventure fanatic tramping through Central Park in slimly tailored khakis and a narrow tie, looking more like a young Gregory Peck than Crocodile Dundee. The images have already caused a stir: Out magazine’s Web site published a Bear Grylls “Swoon Alert” wondering why Dockers was forcing the “dreamy nature explorer” to wear shirts in the photos.

Read the rest at the New York Times.