Selfie Parties: The Most Anti-Social Of All?

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_MG_7662_ErinYamagataPhotographed by Erin Yamagata.
Selfies. We love to loathe them, and loathe to love them. Now, we can add a bit more fuel to the bipolar fire attached to Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year with the photo phenomenon's latest iteration: the selfie party.

It was over a casual dinner with a friend that I scored my first invite to a selfie party. "It's at a private residence and Paula Simpson, a beauty nutritionist nicknamed The Hollywood Pill Doctor, is the guest of honor," my girlfriend said. Hmm. Turns out, Simpson leads said parties to dish her nutritional-beauty recipes as a way to help women achieve the perfect selfie. Really.

But, let's take a step back. Why do we care so much about selfies in the first place? They're not entirely new — self portraiture has been around for ages, although once upon a time it was reserved for the elite who had the right tools (i.e. mirrors and painting skills). Now, it's become democratized by mobile technology says Pamela Rutledge, PhD, director of the Media Pscyhology Research Center and an adjunct professor of media psychology at UCLA’s Fielding Institute.

Counter to what you might believe, Dr. Rutledge says our recent obsession is not about narcissism, but about self-exploration, self-study, and self-observation, which are super-normal human activities that have been a part of Western civilization since the early Greeks and ancient Egyptians. We like to explore our identities and our selves — it’s what we do. So, Dr. Rutledge advises that we get over the selfie shame. “News bulletin,” she writes in Psychology Today, "taking selfies is a normal thing to do, especially if you have embraced visual communication."

And yet, a selfie party still sounds a bit ridiculous. But, without risk there is no reward, and so I went for it and accepted the invitation.

A quick Google search of “selfie party” led to…not much, other than some clubs far from the bright lights of New York City, hosting "selfie party nights," as well as a few children’s selfie-themed birthday parties. I suspected that the fete I had been invited to involved something a little fancier, and a bit outside the bounds of everyday life.

Indeed, it did. When I arrived to the host’s apartment, in a white-glove building on the tony Sutton Place block, I found glamorous people of all sorts, with shiny flowing locks of flaxen blonde and glossy chestnut brown, flashing bright-white teeth, and tucked beautifully into Roland Mouret dresses.

The space itself was breathtaking, too, with massive bay windows jutting out into New York City, offering sweeping views of both river and skyline. With healthy treats and juices from Organic Avenue spread around the pad, a makeup artist set up in a corner to apply the finishing touches, and collagen shots and masks on hand, the self-improvement zone was complete. Champers was free-flowing, naturally.

“Selfies are here to stay; Instagram is on fire,” Simpson told me at the party. “If you asked me a year or two ago I would have said it was a fad, but no, they are here to stay, and it’s becoming more mainstream across all generations.”

"Do clients really call you and say, 'Hey I want to take a great selfie, what should I do?'" I asked.

"Yes, yes they do. They really do," she replied, nodding her head enthusiastically. This is far from her first selfie party — the phenomenon is turning out to be something of a trend among clients in this specific social circle.

To be clear, Simpson is not a doctor — the "pill doctor" moniker is just a nickname that stuck. Rather, she is a celebrity nutritionist who believes that beauty is tremendously affected by diet, and that the things we put inside our bodies to help us look beautiful are the same ones we should apply topically for similar effects.

So, how does she run these selfie parties? The regimen begins 24 hours in advance, when guests are given instructions and recipes to follow for the day leading up to the event. They are asked to make an oil elixir for the face, refrigerate two green tea bags to use as eye packs, and make a yogurt smoothie — half for drinking, and the other half for applying as a mask. Simpson also recommends a diet for the day before which includes plenty of greens, high-quality protein (think salmon, chicken, and nuts), and avoiding simple carbs, red wine, and dark berries.

And then, upon arriving at the party, guests graze on healthy, beauty-enhancing treats, take a shot or two of collagen, have their makeup done, and smile bright for the camera (their own, that is).

But really, should this even warrant being called a party? A party is a social activity, a selfie is, well, all about yourself. Has our narcissism run so rampant that we now need to spend parties in parallel play taking pictures of ourselves? That's certainly the perception. So much so that an Adobo Chronicles hoax claiming that the American Psychological Association had diagnosed "selfitis" as a mental disorder went instantly viral. Meaning we, as a society, find the idea of selfie-taking as disorder to be plausible.

However, while it’s easy to hate here, I’m with Dr. Rutledge on at least this much: It’s not as bad as it sounds. And, the party itself was pretty fun. It felt like a new idea, exciting and buzzy. Besides, we all secretly love taking selfies (admit it), and it was nice for everyone to feel supported and validated in wanting to take a great one.

As a bit of a self-proclaimed health nut, I enjoyed Paula's routine, too. Anything that promotes the use of natural ingredients in the pursuit of better beauty — from the inside and out — is good in my book (especially that wonderful grapeseed moisturizer). See Simpson's complete pre-selfie routine ahead. Just in case you want to give it a shot.
smoothie-selfiesPhoto: Courtesy of Paula Simpson.
Paula Simpson’s 24-Hour Selfie-Party Prep
Foods to Brighten and Renew for the Prettiest Selfie

The Night Before
• Make Oil Elixir: Mix together 1 part macadamia Oil, 2 parts grape seed or carrot seed oil. Apply in the evening before bedtime (on face, around eyes, neck, hands).
• Place 2 green tea bags in the fridge overnight.

Morning Of
• Prepare breakfast beauty smoothie with the following ingredients:
1 cup greek plain yogurt
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup pineapple
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp spirulina powder
• Consume 3/4 of the smoothie
• Use 1/4 for as a morning facial mask for 5 minutes (place the 2 green tea bags on eyes during the facial).
• Consume 1 green tea, horsetail, or burdock root tea.
• Hydrate throughout the day with lemon and water.

Suggested Diet, Day Of

Snack
1 horsetail or burdock root tea
1 organic apple
Small piece of cheese

Lunch
Make a salad with dark greens (i.e. kale, spinach, dandelion greens), carrots, and high-quality protein (chicken, salmon, and nuts or seeds, like walnuts and almonds). Add celery, orange, or red peppers.
Olive-oil based dressing

Snack
Fresh greens-based juice (spinach, kale, apple, lemon dandelion, ginger)
Greek yogurt

Dinner/Selfie Party
• Stay away from simple carbohydrates that belly bloat (breads, pastas, etc.).
• Stay away from red wine, dark berries, and coffee.
• Add a dash of oil elixir for a dewy complexion.
• Apply powder on top to avoid too much shine.