All Hail Gloria!


South Africa’s most popular and well known style guru – Dion Chang – is a man of many talents. Readers of Elle South Africa will know that he’s not just a mix-and-match runway expert, but an accomplished (award winning, in fact) writer, and a masterful cartoonist.

Chang created the character of Gloria nine years ago with the launch of Elle, and now her monthly exploits have been compiled into a fun little book, titled Gloria’s Guide to Fabulousness.

Billed as being “cheaper than a lipstick!”, it’s the kind of entertaining gift book (a perfect Christmas present for a gay friend or fag hag) that anyone will enjoy – even those who find reading the instructions on a packet of microwave popcorn taxing. This light and humorous bounty of tips and advice to achieve fabulousness, interspersed with Chang’s remarkably appealing cartoon sketches of Gloria, will leave you grinning, if not giggling out loud.

Apart from his role as Gloria’s mentor, Dion Chang is the co-ordinator of SA Fashion Week. He also runs a trend analysis consultancy, Flux, and writes regular columns for various publications.

It won’t shake the South African literary world, but, like a creamy butt-hugging dessert, Gloria’s Guide to Fabulousness is a decadently guilty pleasure that’s worth indulging in.

Cue Gloria’s creator…

Mambaonline: How did the book come about? Why did you think the time was ripe to take Gloria out of Elle, and into her own world?

Dion Chang: Gloria has been around for almost 10 years. She’s since garnered a niche but very loyal following. I get stopped in the most unlikely places – gym, supermarket – by Gloria fans telling me their own Gloria moments. This told me that Gloria’s antics hit a collective nerve somewhere, so a book was a natural progression; to give her fans a more substantial hit, as well as to introduce her to new people.

It’s no autobiography, but how much of the book reflects your own experiences?

The book is filled with personal experiences – like the tip on feeding a chatty neighbour a sleeping tablet on a long haul flight (it actually happened!) – as are the tried and tested tips on entertaining and dealing with snotty sales assistants. Gloria is definitely an alter ego; because through her I can make commentary on the fashion industry that would seem weird coming from me. I think there is no better source of comedy than the fashionista crowd.

Are you as fabulous as Gloria?

I think she’s just that little bit more fabulous that I am, because she’s got more energy and naivety (which is really fabulous), and she’s not quite as jaded. But then again, I give her a Zen Buddhist grounding, so we make a good team.

While intended for a female market, like Sex and the City the book will have a great deal of appeal to gay men. Why do you think that is?

I think gay boys in particular share a common bond with fabulous (and usually larger than life) women in that they really live for the moment. Think of the icons: Cher, Tina Turner, Madonna – they have personalities that fill vast stadiums. There is also no such thing as Sunday best clothing, special crockery, or maybe tomorrow decisions. Life is too short.

Fab people tend to view frivolity as a necessity, not as a side dish, so they embrace indulgence, opulence and diva-like entrances. If it makes the moment fabulous then you do whatever it takes to make it happen and, more importantly, to make it seem effortless.

That’s truly fabulous!

Gloria’s Guide to Fabulousness is available at bookstores at a fabulous R99.95.

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