When Audrey Hepburn portrayed a feisty Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” she demonstrated that becoming a lady goes far beyond the ability to articulate “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
This weekend, the Jefferson Performing Arts Society presents the beloved story on stage. That led us to wonder: If Miss Doolittle were living in present-day New Orleans, how would her Henry Higgins help her cultivate important social graces?
Well, here are a few guesses.
Eliza has her heart in the right place, but as she learned, formal manners never go out of style. That’s why Betty Rabe opened Charmed Etiquette.
“I think, deep down, people want to put their best foot forward,” said Rabe, a graduate of the Emily Post Institute.
Although she offers workshops for children, she also meets with adults, including customer service professionals. Her classes cover such topics as table manners, the art of writing a thank-you note, and the importance of the RSVP.
Rabe discusses etiquette for online communication, but insists that phone calls or face-to-face interactions are best. She says manners are based on honesty, respect and consideration.
“Good manners are not about making someone feel uncomfortable because you have something they don’t have,” she said, bringing to mind the inconsiderate socialites that looked down on Eliza’s set. “You actually have good manners if you can make someone feel comfortable.”
Sorting through makeup options can be overwhelming. But Celeste Louapre Houser, the owner of Make Me Up, believes that makeup is empowering.
“You feel like you’ve gotten up for the day and you’re doing something,” she said, explaining that she sets aside 10 minutes in the morning for a quick makeup application. “I feel and look good, and that’s what makes me feel put together.” Make Me Up offers private lessons and group workshops.
For a classic Audrey Hepburn look, Houser recommends a creamy eyeliner that creates a sleek line when used with a special bent brush, a soft pomade that defines eyebrows, and contouring powders. As for lipstick colors, she suggests a bold red or a subtle pink.
For a New Orleans hostess, crafting a dinner party is an essential skill.
As a young girl, Chef Amy Sins, the owner of Langlois, watched her parents entertain guests over elaborate dinners and decided that, one day, she would do the same.
“That’s kind of what we do at Langlois,” said Sins. “We’re throwing a New Orleans-style dinner party, in a comfortable, welcoming environment.”
Langlois offers an interactive dining experience through private and group cooking classes. Guests receive personal time with the chef and learn how to master basic culinary techniques, plate dishes and plan a dinner party.
The culinary creations are served on fine china, with a wine pairing. Diners receive table service and leave with a pamphlet of recipes, and the confidence to host an elegant feté.
“As we get older and want to bring people together, we want to do that around food,” said Sins. “Now, you get to be the person who brings everyone together.”
Eliza developed a posh accent, but a lady needs something to talk about.
“Learning about art is learning about humanity,” said Tracy Kennan, the curator of education at the New Orleans Museum of Art, who describes art as “a visual language that extends across cultures and time.”
NOMA offers a variety of educational programs, such as guided tours and “gallery talks by curators” on select Friday evenings.
“You can learn so much through art,” said Keenan. “From Greek mythology to scientific principals of optical illusion, there are not many topics that are not expressed in one way or another through art.”
Standard English was a challenge for Eliza Doolittle, much less another language. But today, a second language is increasingly in demand.
To take French language skills to the next level, the Alliance Française de La Nouvelle-Orléans offers French classes for Francophiles of all ages.
Aurélie Champvert, the executive director of the organization, said students request lessons to enhance their professional life, to reconnect with their heritage, or to prepare for a trip. Others simply enjoy the challenge.
“Speaking French can help women and men stand out in their company, take advantage of opportunities to work with French-speaking clients, and ultimately advance in their careers,” said Champvert. “Additionally, if you’re looking to break out of your everyday circle of friends and colleagues, our classes and events are a great place to network with people who have a shared interest in the French language, New Orleans’ French heritage, or worldwide Francophone cultures.”