Lifestyle media can sound like a marketing term. In fact, at the time of this list's publishing, a quick online search turned up results such as marketing related material and the link to Scripps Network. Even Wikipedia did not have an entry for it. The lack of a common definition does not mean though that there is no development of lifestyle media. With social media firmly imprinted in our daily habits, the ways that we approach information have greatly shifted and along with the change our sense of how media can improve the quality of our lives.
The following list of people are those who promote ways that make our everyday lives just a little more smooth, colorful, and delicious. They teach us how to make a Berkshire pork belly bun, decorate our living room, and use accessories to accentuate an otherwise listless outfit. While such information has been around and available through various forms of traditional media, the personalities behind the advice have become even more prominent and accessible in 2009. In turn, they are less purveyors of products and more guides on form, taste, and style.
(in no particular order)
10. On Dan Ho's eponymous show, conveying the message of simplicity can be decidedly complex. One of his main tenets is the interconnection between material and mental clutter. He hasn't always subscribed to the importance of organizing a more basic everyday life. Personal health issues led him to realize how much he needed to make changes. Since then, he founded a magazine called Rescue and wrote a book about lifestyle changes. His show focuses on helping one or two individuals confront anxieties, bad habits, and stress in order to streamline their lives. Each episode clues viewers on the many ways in which stress can manifest and the strategies to combat them. As it appears, simplicity can take on many forms.
9. There were many chefs who released books this past year, yet few who dare to be as outspoken in his rejection of certain food social correctness as David Chang. Depicted by New York magazine as a renegade, Chang challenged more than one convention when he opened Momofuku Noodle Bar five years ago. Now known for not being shy with pork products, Chang drew attention when he pointedly refused to make concessions to vegetarians. Three more eateries and the blessings of notable food names like Mario Batali, Alan Richman, and Ruth Reichl (formerly Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet) later, Chang has been elevated as a chef celebrity among food enthusiasts. He recently went on programs such as Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to promote the Oct. 27 release of his book Momofuku. Even as his name becomes more mainstream, he sheds none of his candor. On a Feb. 11 Tony and Friends vodcast, Chang told Anthony Bourdain that diners who take photos of their food at his restaurants remove the focus away from why they are there in the first place. Two months ago, Chicago Tribune reported him casting the worst food trends of the past decade. Yet, with the bloom of new media outlets like online news and blogs, Chang is also portrayed as self-deprecating and mindful of the vagaries of success.
8. He may be a supporting character on the reality show The City, but for many fashionistas Joe Zee's impact as Creative Director for Elle plays a significant role in how they digest the latest trends. At Elle, Zee is responsible for the visuals seen throughout the magazine. Zee has already built his stylist credentials with such stints as the Fashion Director at W and former Editor-in-Chief of defunct Vitals. In the wake of publishing industry slumps, editors at major fashion magazines realized that their brands might benefit from having a more public profile. With his appearances on The City and Stylista, Zee comes across as comfortable on screen. It may have something to do with the fact that, as a self-proclaimed fan of pop culture, Zee understands trends outside of the immediate fashion world. At this year's July couture shows in Paris, he reported his observations by tweet.
7. Japan's multi-media lifestyle star Harumi Kurihara released her latest English-language cookbook Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food for Family and Friends earlier in September. Designed for foreign readers, the book's title lays out Harumi's plan to introduce easier recipes. According to The New York Times, she proudly bears the title of "majime shufu," literally translated as "serious housewives." Already, her fans in Japan can channel her style through her best-selling cookbooks, style magazines, housewares, and DVDs. They can also do so by having a meal at any one of her many cafés.
6. Diverse literature from academic monographs to food blogs has pondered on the appeal of Padma Lakshmi. She made food-oriented programming viscerally sexy in a way that few others have been able to. While Lakshmi may know the effect of her appeal, she has wisely parlayed her modeling and acting career into one in food media and more recently jewelry design. In 1999, her first cookbook Easy Exotic: Low-Fat Recipes from Around the World was published. She followed up in 2007 with Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet. Before co-hosting Top Chef, she appeared on Food Network with Padma's Passport. Sometimes, even her involvement in film can relate to food, with her role in The Mistress of Spices and the documentary Planet Food. She may be most well-known for hosting Top Chef, which just wrapped up its sixth season and will branch out beyond Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Junior with Top Chef: Just Desserts.
5. Francis Lam is the kind of food writer that is not found very often, despite the growing popularity of food writing and thereby increasing number of resources. It takes talent to capture something known and expected like the creaminess of corn without actually using those words. Instead, he weaves a narrative ambience, so tales of different foods and their aficionados are not filtered through a particular sense. Lam has a keen sense of his subjectivity. He carefully constructs his stories, inserting himself when needed to inform readers of the sensibilities and experiences that shape the culinary viewpoint on page. Lam was a contributing editor to Gourmet before it shuttered this November. He has since joined Salon as a contributor to the new food section, of which he helped to set up.
4. Vern Yip is one of the judges on the popular Home and Garden Television (HGTV) show Design Star. Viewers may also recognize Yip as the former host of the no longer renewed Deserving Design where he was more than an interior designer. To the recipients of his room makeovers, he was one part cheerleader and one part fairy godfather. Each episode opened with a story of loss, followed by what was intended to be a morale boost when Yip stepped in with his classy clean aesthetic to update two rooms – one of which remained a surprise until the unveiling. Yip was a guest makeover designer on TLC's Trading Spaces before hosting Deserving Design and judging on Design Star.
3. By now, if you haven't heard of Kogi Korean BBQ in the United States, then you probably don't really care about food all that much. Sure, food trucks have been around for years. Before Kogi came along in Los Angeles, however, only motley of food adventurers, taco purists, and New Yorkers knew the potential of food trucks. Whereas New Yorkers had recognized what great things food trucks can bring (besides hot dogs and pretzels), ironically in LA – a city wherein mobility is a culture – the potential was never fully realized. That is, not until Roy Choi, Mark Manguerra and his wife Caroline, along with their family and friends, established Kogi Korean BBQ as an entrepreneurial force to take notes from. While Roy based the menu on his L.A. experiences, Mark and Caroline took care of operations, Caroline's sister Alice Shin harnessed the immediacy of Twitter to disseminate updates, their brother Eric took pictures of the trucks around town, and his friend Eric Prasad helped to promote Kogi. The combination of a uniquely L.A. interpretation of fast food and strategic advertising via social media turned Kogi into a brand and made its team true new media players. National media outlets like ABC News Nightline and The New York Times have waxed on the phenomenon of Kogi. Culinary publications like Food & Wine and Gourmet offer Kogi recipes like signature tacos and kimchi quesadillas (available respectively here and here). Newsweek aptly called Kogi "the first viral eatery." As any celebrity will tell you, fame comes concomitant with controversy. Earlier this year, Baja Fresh rolled out a curiously similar fusion menu featuring "Baja Kogi" tacos, later changed to "Baja Gogi." Alleged outright imitation from a fast food chain? That's when you know you've made it.
2. Thanks to the symbiosis of ever-expanding food awareness and the media that serves it, the average American is pretty savvy about culinary terms and personalities. If not, then at least they are open to consuming new flavors. With items like arugula and sea salt becoming readily accessible, our national consciousness has evolved to a new point. Through this and the path paved by chef celebrities like Martin Yan and Ming Tsai, we've seen the creativity of Asian/Asian American cooks and chefs regularly explored on shows like Top Chef and Japanese-inspired Iron Chef America. There were several Asian/Asian American participants this year. On Next Food Network, Debbie Lee of last season made it as one of the three finalists. The recent season of Next Iron Chef saw Jehangir Mehta as the penultimate contestant who eventually lost to Jose Garcia. Anita Lo and Roy Yamaguchi competed against other respected chefs like Rick Bayless and Hubert Keller for prize money to be given to his/her designated charity on the debut season of Top Chef Masters. Collectively, their presence expands notions on Asian/Asian fusion cuisines. It also ensures that it will no longer be surprising to hear of an Asian American kid who wants to don toques and wield spatulas when s/he grows older.
1. The web is teeming with lifestyle bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, and the social media in-betweens who dole advice on everything from paper crafts to finding the best bowl of ramen to creating the just right smoky eye. Many of them may support themselves through means outside of their social media pursuits. Little guarantee of financial compensation notwithstanding, they enthusiastically share their knowledge and experiences with the general public. Their passion is contagious, creating communities among themselves and their loyal readers. The organic development of their influence as well as the very media upon which they build their presence are the most reflective of what is shaping up as (new) lifestyle media.