August 7, 2009 / 8:23 PM / 8 years ago

Celebrities, recession fuel interest in etiquette

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Misbehaving celebrities and the recession have pushed more people to improve their etiquette in a bid to gain an edge over job rivals and inspired lifestyle books such as “How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World.”

Author Jordan Christy said she wrote the guide to “the art of living with style, class and grace” after celebrities such as Paris Hilton, actress Lindsay Lohan and singer Britney Spears made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Hilton is infamous-for a lewd sex tape that became and Internet hit, Lohan has long been gossip fodder due to her public drunkenness and Spears was splashed across tabloids partying without underwear.

“For too long this ‘stupid girl’ behavior has been burning the daily headlines and I really think there’s a lot of people out there who wanted to see a return to our feminine values,” said the 24-year-old Nashville, Tennessee-based writer.

Christy’s book has chapters on “Keep Your Chin Up and Your Skirt Down,” “Dress to Impress” and “Let Him Come Calling.”

“I hope that the book serves as a call to action to the young women of this generation to stand up and take back our dignity and our values and our self respect,” said Christy. “It’s great that we have seen this resurgence in etiquette and manners and self respect.”

That resurgence has also generated popular reality make-over TV series such as VH1’s “Charm School” and Britain’s “Ladette to Lady,” which see wild young women compete against each other as they are taught how to behave like a lady.

While etiquette schools throughout the United States said the country’s worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s had fueled more interest from people wanting to improve their manners either in a bid to keep their job or stand out in a sea of jobseekers.

Gloria Starr, a corporate image, etiquette and communication adviser based in Charlotte, North Carolina said her business, which includes the Modern Day Finishing School, had soared 40 percent in the past year.

SOCIAL EQUALIZER

Starr said people were “realizing that it takes more than just competency and knowledge.”

“People I think are prepared to do whatever it takes to maintain their job and to have some sort of an edge immediately (over jobseekers),” she said.

Starr is also planning to open a Modern Day Princess Finishing School for young girls, teaching classes to create “a lady in a world where there’s no such thing” in response to demand from parents.

Several etiquette teachers said children were learning bad behavior from athletes and celebrities and that working parents no longer had time to teach them basic manners.

Peggy Newfield, who has been teaching etiquette for 30 years and runs the Atlanta-based American School of Protocol, said her business was “booming.”

“We cannot keep up,” she said. “When the economy is down etiquette training will always be up. They’re focusing on ‘What I can do to survive, I have to really up my game because the competition is keen.'”

“It’s so much more than writing the thank you note at the end,” Newfield said. “It’s about walking in for the job interview, every hair is in place, your clothes are immaculately pressed, your shoes are polished, you’re groomed to the nines, you speak the part, your English is correct.”

Carol Haislip, director of The International School of Protocol in Hunt Valley, Maryland, said studies has shown that “85 percent of the reason a person gets a job, keeps a job and moves up is related to their people skills.”

“There are very few jobs out there where your manners, where your socials skills, are not a big piece of what it will take to be successful,” she said. “Manners are the great equalizer and if you have manners you can walk into any business or social situation.”

Editing by Mark Egan and Patricia Reaney

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