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US Diary: Homegrown designers see red over Michelle's frock

New York's fashion elite are seeing red over Michelle Obama's decision to wear a gown by the British house of Alexander McQueen to the recent state dinner honouring Chinese President Hu.

What started as a smattering of snarky comments about the First Lady's choice of a foreign designer is snowballing into a more serious rift between Mrs Obama and Seventh Avenue power players like Oscar de la Renta who feel she should promote American designers.

"Do you think Kate Middleton is going to be married in Marc Jacobs?" Mr de la Renta vented last week questioning the First Lady's allegiance to the US fashion community. "This is a big industry in this country. Mrs Obama does look great. She should take that and do something. She could do a great job for our industry."

Despite making an effort to toe the line, Mrs Obama (who wore a silver Rachel Roy sheath dress to hear her husband deliver the State of the Union last Tuesday night, and a J Crew ensemble for a public engagement last Wednesday, and a Prabal Gurung creation for a taping with Oprah the following day) isn't being cut any slack.

Diane Von Furstenburg (who serves as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America) was forced from her sickbed (she recently had a skiing accident in Colorado, and is recovering from a broken nose and facial fractures which, in her own words, make her look like Mike Tyson after a bad fight) to weigh in.

"We were surprised and a little disappointed not to be represented for this major state dinner," the highly diplomatic DVF told reporters at Women's Wear Daily who, in a bid to push their point home, noted a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review estimating the dollar value for brand-labels worn by Michelle Obama (November 2008 to December 2009) at $2.7bn, a figure they calculated by related stock spikes. "Maybe, in her search for a red dress, that happened to be the best-looking option available to her for the occasion," WWD dished, adding salt with a pointed reference to the lacklustre reception generated by the McQueen gown. "Imagine the upset if she wore something that didn't look good." Not a peep, so far, from the White House.

Mystery author linked to Palin

News that former John McCain speechwriter Mark Salter is the anonymous author behind the much hyped O: A Presidential Novel, has many people who've read the book scratching their heads. Why didn't Salter, who had intimate access to the relationship between McCain and Sarah Palin, play with that story instead of concocting a fantasy about a man (Obama) he obviously knows so little about?

The book, catagorised by publishers as "speculative fiction," was released last Tuesday to pretty lukewarm reviews including a cheeky comment from the New York Times suggesting if the author has indeed "been in the room" with Obama it must have been a very big room -- say, a ballroom or a convention centre.

Salter who has been in the room with Sarah Palin, probably delivers his best lines when he describes the female Republican character running against Obama in his fictional take on the 2012 race. "There she was," he writes, "baby on her hip, thick hair piled high, chin out, defiant, taunting, flaunting that whole lusty librarian thing, sweet and savoury, mother and predator, alluring and dangerous." Salter even has a built-in title for what could have been a book about Palin. He simply calls her character 'The Barracuda'. And that was before Ms Palin called Obama's State of the Union "Winning the Future" address a WTF moment.

Crowning glory for royal film?

and the Vegas vote is in. According to odds-makers who have closed their Oscar books, Natalie Portman (Black Swan) will win Best Actress, Colin Firth (The King's Speech) will collect for Best Actor and The Social Network will be selected as Best Picture, when the Academy Awards are presented on February 27.

But that hasn't stopped Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein trying to beat the odds by campaigning to ensure The King's Speech is, at the very least, seriously considered for Best Picture by voting members of the Academy.

"I do not believe of the 6,000-plus Oscar members, that everyone saw the movie," Weinstein said while making the rounds in LA last week. "We have to get everyone to see the movie."

He might be on to something. Box-office figures show a cinema-going bounce of 76 per cent for The Kings Speech since the nominations were announced last Tuesday.

And the worst actress is. . .

Jennifer Aniston is odds-on favourite to score a different kind of honour this award season. The actress has been nominated for a Worst Actress Raspberry Award for her roles in The Bounty Hunter and The Switch, beating some pretty stiff competition from Miley Cyrus (The Last Song), Kristen Stewart (The Twlight Saga: Eclipse), Megan Fox (Jonah Hex) and SJP & Co for Sex And The City: 2.

While being a Razzie-recipient used to be a badge of shame, the anti-establishment award show gained a certain ironic status last year when it named Sandra Bullock as Worst Actress for The Blind Side, the movie which days later earned Bullock an Academy Award.

Still, you have to feel some pity for Jessica Alba who has been nominated as Worst Supporting Actress in each of the four movies (The Killer Inside Me, Little Fockers, Manchete and Valentine's Day) she worked on last year.

Sunday Independent