Natalia Petrzela

Historian. Writer. Teacher. Activist. NYC + the world.

Yoga Pants Made LuLuLemon Founder Chip Wilson a Billionare—Why Isn’t He More Grateful to the Women Who Wear Them?

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Fiona Aboud

Chip Wilson is his own employee of the month. Right there on his website, you can see a portrait of his smiling face, set within a cheap wooden frame and festooned with a gold star bearing the accolade. But in his colorful new memoir, Little Black Stretchy Pants: The Unauthorized Story of Lululemon (LBSP), the controversial Lululemon Athletica founder makes clear that, beyond ostensibly putting himself above his actual employees, he also feels superior to many of the women who wear the brand’s hundred-dollar yoga pants that have made him a multibillionaire. LBSP is dripping with contempt for the “non-athletic, smoking, Diet-Coke drinking woman in […]

Just Because It Sounds Good Doesn’t Mean It’s True

Rodney Ewing, Patriot (Assata Shakur), silkscreen and dry pigment on paper, 2016

“You just need to tune everyone else out and focus on what you know to be right,” my husband recently told me as I complained, again, about some writing that had been keeping me up at night. That sounded like sage advice; after all, how many times do we hear variations on this like “Follow your heart,” “Find your truth,” “You know yourself best,” etc? So off I went, tapping away at my keyboard, watching the sentences turn into paragraphs and then into pages, all in service of… “writing my truth” undistracted by the supposed interference of others. A few days later, […]

When Wellness is a Dirty Word

Watermelon Patch

First came the anthropologist of Arctic poverty who found me on Instagram and confided that she was a Jazzercise fanatic. Then the intellectual historian who eloquently introduced herself as an expert on a similarly Serious Topic but rapidly and with sparkling eyes, before any of our fellow conferees entered the elevator, effused that it was really her Ashtanga yoga practice that sustained her. And the implacable administrator who waited for the meeting room to clear before explaining to me, her gaze softening, the admirable commitment of her Wednesday-night “Zumba ladies,” who traveled from three boroughs to their class in the […]

Past Present Podcast: Life Coaches

past present podcast

On this Past Present Podcast episode, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss life coaches. Life coaching is big business these days, but there’s still some confusion about what life coaches actually do. Natalia drew from the sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s work on the outsourcing of intimate labor to argue that life coaches are often stand-ins for a reliable friend or professional mentor. Niki noted this was most visible in new services like “Rent-a-Mom.” Niki cited Julie Golia’s research on the rise of advice columns as a helpful way for understanding life coaches. Like Golia’s advice columnists, life coaches fulfill […]

We Are in a Wonder Woman Moment

wonder woman

My 2-year old daughter plays on the beach in a tiny red, white and blue swimsuit, her chest emblazoned with a winged yellow “W” that needs no explanation. Unlike Dora the Explorer and Ariel the Mermaid, cutesy characters popular with the toddler set, Wonder Woman is a full-grown Amazon, created in 1941 by William Moulton Marston to serve as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should rule the world.” Yet, the kiddie bathing suit didn’t come from a hipster purveyor of “feminist baby clothing,” but mass-market Old Navy, advertised without apparent contradiction alongside pink sparkly ballerina dresses […]