Recap – a CALM ‘Ambassador’: A fucking immense individual who has gone above and beyond their ‘time’ without us even asking them to, and still to our amazement couldn’t actually be doing a better job of representing and promoting CALM antics. We decided to slap a name on it … even if we had the money, you just can’t buy this shit.
Phil Levine was so embedded in the fabric of CALM that we almost forgot to formally ask him to officially don the CALM Ambassador hat. He said yes by the way. Phil has had CALM’s details and UK suicide stats at the bottom of his signature for years now; he has been actively and passively promoting CALM through his superhighway-highflying networks for as long as I have known him. It started with the signature but most recently he became a fulcrum in the CALMzine operation – wrestling and whipping the pages of our beautiful bijoux mag into the glorious shape, which you see before you today. As for the other stuff – a quick and crude explanation is thus: much of Phil’s work for CALM remains under the radar – a meeting set up here; a phone call arranged there; a good word in the right ear often. On the other hand what Phil is most known for is the ‘glamorous’ high-profile stuff, carrying the CALM flag all the way. But why let me tell you about that? Over to Mr. Levine:
I am bald: My life might look glamorous from afar, truthfully though, it’s all about packaging.
Let me recap – I have been fairly settled with myself throughout life, a supportive family and friends etc. So when I started going bald in my early 20s (a hereditary part of my family tree) I promised not to get to that in-between stage of having the Donald Trump sweep over. So I shaved all my hair off when I was 25, in 2006. I then looked in the mirror and realised it would be cool to use my cleanly shaven bonce as a canvas for art and my creative ideas. So I started doing head designs with body artist Kat Sinclair, originally just for fun. Slowly, this organic and spontaneous idea became serious, to the point that I put up a blog of my best designs on www.philsays.com, which went on to be placed on many global trend websites. So in 2010, I decided to ring up Gillette. I told them, “you don’t support bald people who use your products and you don’t support artists…why don’t you support me to put on my debut exhibition?” and they did. Funny that, what making a phone call can do in life. This led to ‘Headism’ – www.headism.co.uk, a project launching in May 2011 in London. Daniel Regan took the photographs (another major CALM supporter and contributor.)
Quite honestly, I thought I could put the ‘Headism’ concept slowly to bed due to the assumed climax of the show. But actually, that wasn’t the climax and neither was being chosen by Stoli Vodka as ‘True Original’, being sent to the Playboy Mansion in LA to party, (yes I saw the ‘Hef’,) nor having a short documentary shown at the O2 for Sundance London this April. Quite simply the highlight so far was designing on an eleven year old boy’s head who has alopecia. I was contacted by his mum who said that she and Michael were inspired by my designs. It just so happened that this February I was visiting my brother in San Francisco where they live so I offered to design on Michael’s head. I even got some unexpected press in The Sun and The Times!
If you told me 10 years ago that I would be giving something back to someone, making my art a cure, turning what could be seen as a negative into a positive, I just really would not have believed it! But I’ll take it now and keep doing my design if it touches people around the world in a beautiful way.
I am a man: But I have something to tell you as well. My name’s Phil and I also cry.
Guys, the strangest thing happened to me the other week. I cried hard and I couldn’t stop. I was blubbering more than Gazza did in the Walkers adverts with fake tears being sprayed from his eyes.
The reason? Life. It was the first time I really experienced such an emotive response from my body. To explain further, I haven’t been having the easiest of times. As much as I love my art world and amazing things that happen in it, I still have to make a living from 9 to 5. I was just coming to the end of my job after being in some way forced out of my position, while at the same time being pulled sideways by someone I liked, making too big a deal in my head of wanting things to work out with them. So there I was at 4am on a Saturday morning, feeling a little drunk coming back from a club but in such a morbid mood. I knew what I needed to do. I wasn’t going to call for help, I didn’t feel suicidal. But I felt bad. So, taking the mantra of CALM, that it is ‘good to talk about your problems,’ I contacted my friend Tom through email. Tom was away on holiday but I knew writing an email to him would be the best thing to do, which I did. I wrote my concerns of losing a job at 30, and being unemployed AGAIN and not settled down. The fact was that some things were going right, which was the stuff I loved doing but I wasn’t making money out of it, and the other factor of no love-life etc.
When I got to the end of writing this email I let out my tears, it was…cathartic. I had to release that stress out of my life and out of my system. I felt so much better after it, but wasn’t 100% still the next day so I called a friend. As soon as she picked up the phone I cried even harder, just saying I needed to talk to someone about getting IT, this bad feeling, out my system.
After that, I spoke to one or two other guy friends and you know what they said? ‘Oh yeah, I do that sometimes as well’. I was like, “what the fuck!” You mean you never chose to tell me you weep tears and you didn’t happen to EVER mention this over our 10 year friendship that you cry? Either I don’t talk to my friends enough or there are a lot more of us that need to admit we cry so that we know it’s normal.
Yes my name’s Phil and I cry, but damn you, tell your friends it’s fine to cry because I don’t want men in similar positions feeling as much as an extra terrestrial landing on planet Earth for the first time as I did the other day. Maybe this might mean I can cry more often in a positive way…
So, there we go. You get the smooth and crunchy peanut butter. I’ve turned baldness and crying – something that many parts of society deem as weakness – into strength. Believe in the ideas you have because you never know what can come of them. Always know there is someone and somewhere you can get support from. Be it friends or CALM – look at it this way – don’t be the Genie in Aladdin, just let him out.
Dedicated to my friend Robin Goodchild who took his own life 3 years ago and maybe if he knew of CALM’s work, he would be crying with me today, shoulder to shoulder.
Phil Twitter: @Headism
CALM’s Ambassadors: http://www.thecalmzone.net/2012/02/define-calm-ambassador/