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Archive for the ‘Images of beauty’ Category

Brazilian model, Gisele Bündchen, has just been re-named the world’s top-earning model with a reported estimated worth of $150 million. An article on The Daily Beast says she’s, “without question, the most money- and marketing-savvy supermodel of our time.”

And then goes on to say why: Gisele is also—unlike the dark-eyed, dark-haired, curvier Juliana Paes—blond and blue-eyed, a genetic asset in a country where half of the Brazilian population is black or mixed race, yet most of its top models have Northern European features. “More traditional, less daring, easier to accept,” says Pascowitz of Gisele’s more corporate-friendly look.

Got it. She’s the top earning model because she fits the European ideal. Curvier and darker is daring, white and skinny is traditional and easy to accept. But does her nationality even matter? Like who cares that she’s “Brazilian,” is that supposed to represent diversity? 

The Daily Beast’s article gives all credit to Gisele’s shrewd business sense, when really her genetic asset of blonde hair and blue eyes probably has a lot more to do with it. She’s unstoppable all right because curvier and darker will never be in season, and certainly not worth $150 million.

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Venus and Serena Williams want you to think they are sexy. It doesn’t matter that they’re both uber millionaires, can kick anyone’s ass in tennis and did it all while rockin fashion from South Central. But now, they’re grown up. Serena has an on-off again relationship with rapper/actor Common, has posed semi-nude (although the only you could see were her arms and legs) on the cover of ESPN magazine and Venus well, she’s been pretty quiet until images of her bustier lace tennis outfit at the French Open this past weekend made the news.

The outfit/dress is from her line, EleVen, but the look didn’t go over too well in the fashion world or in the world of tennis modesty. In other words, people thought the outfit was ugly to begin with and way too short. Venus says the outfit and the accompanying nude tone tennis panties were “about illusion” which is “a lot of my motif this year.”

Meh.

The outfit is a little hideous like a Frederick’s of Hollywood gag gift but too short? Not necessarily. If she had a different body type, it would have been a non-issue. To her credit, I think the material of the outfit itself made it impossible to bend with her moves on the court. Yes, her nude panties flashed a lot, giving off the “illusion” (there’s that word again) that she wasn’t wearing any, but it seems like people would have just gotten over it after they realized she was. Maybe Venus was inspired by being in France and decided to be adventurous… my advice?

She should stick to what she’s good at instead of trying to forge a name in tennis fashion.

Update: Yikes! It’s definitely too short… http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/1663/1/?redirectURL=http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-05-24/grand-slam-fashion/?cid=hp:beastoriginalsC2

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It’s no secret that the fashion industry has an affinity for white models. And it’s no secret that Hollywood has an affinity for white actresses- clearly that’s why Halle Berry is the only Black woman to have won the Oscar for Best Actress since the ritual began in 1927. However it’s the modeling industry that’s always under fire, whether its the weight issues, lack of diversity, objectification or drug use- seems like they can’t get a break.

In a world where membership draws a hard line at height and body fat composition, I wonder how Black women (and other women of color) who have features and physiques different from the norm are ever going to be fully integrated into the system. In the short documentary the Colour of Beauty we learn that when a particular designer does want a Black girl, she has to be like “a white girl dipped in chocolate.”

And while Black girls like that do exist (thanks to our country’s history we come in a million different varieties)… can you imagine someone actually telling you that?

Diversity in fashion isn’t just about the runway, in fact, I’d argue it’s more about who’s working behind the scenes. Not only are the models as lily white as this year’s Vanity Fair Young Hollywood cover but so are the agents, the heads of major firms and the people working at fashion magazines.

Obviously, we can’t do anything about our “big eyes, big nose, big lips… Things that are common traits in African-Americans,” but hell will freeze over if we think just talking about the problem is enough to solve it. I mean, how do you go about integrating an industry that seems very comfortable with things the way they are? After all, can you imagine a client trying to explain to a person of color exactly what “type” of Black girl is needed? I don’t think think the chocolate dipping analogy would go over too well.

Integration isn’t about just being able to show up to the party without fear of being escorted out, it’s about being invited. How do you change people’s perceptions about beauty when its based off something completely subjective to begin with? And unfortunately, in a world where models would be manufactured like Barbies if they could, I’m not sure the Black ones would be the first choice to market clothes. After all, no one wants to be thought of as a “Negro company”…I learned that from Mad Men. Looking at it through an economic lens, items are marketed to people who have the money to buy and in the world of high fashion, Blacks are an afterthought-along with anybody else who can’t afford a $400 pair of shoes or a $1,500 bag.

That’s the official story.

The truth however, is that Blackness or rather, the stereotype of Blackness has been rejected because it’s seen as being ugly. And in a world where everything that matters is based on superficial perception, how do you go about changing the way shallow people think?


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New Miss USA photos featuring the girls in racy lingerie have been causing quite the stir. The photos taken by Fadil Berisha show the girls in fishnets and sexy bustiers rolling around on a bed and people who oppose the imagery say that it is too sexy for Miss USA and sends the wrong message when the pageant is all about promoting and empowering women.

Okay… I’m confused. How is judging women solely off of their looks and how they answer open ended questions empowering?

Donald Trump, the pageant’s owner, defends the photos and a rep explained them saying, “We are in the business of beauty and the contestants who compete for the title of Miss USA are not afraid to be sexy. These ladies are the full package – smart, accomplished, relevant and sexy!”

People have always had complaints about pageantry and in this case you have to consider that as our society gets sexier…everything has to in order to catch up. Not saying it’s right or even that I agree with the photos, but it’s kind of ridiculous to battle the ins and outs of the competition as a whole, when the entire institution is shallow to begin with. Just saying.

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I consider Christina Aguilera to be the most vocally talented artist of this generation. She’s like Whitney in the 80’s and early 90’s and Mariah when she actually sang ballads and didn’t secretly want to be a pop star. Well now, Christina’s back after two years and a baby boy named Max. Her new album Bionic drops June 8 and has people comparing her new look to Lady Gaga. Even though Christina has ten years on Gaga, and I’d say Gaga probably got more of her influence from her. Granted, she’s quite overtly sexual in the first single’s video Not Myself Tonight but her display of her sexuality isn’t something she’s ever been shy about. Her album Stripped was all about shedding layers and as a byproduct clothes. Remember Dirty?

But in the video for the new single, she’s a little bit more experimental and as I heard yesterday, maybe she shouldn’t be considering she is married with a son. I don’t know if that should be the criteria or the reason to change your natural artistic progression but it’s definitely a valid opinion. In Not Myself Tonight, she kisses girls and boys and engages in a Basic Instinct scene at the end. In general it’s a very dark video complete with bondage references but I’m not sure if it’s worst than other videos where sexuality is conveyed solely through dance.

Watch: Christina’s Not Myself Tonight

At the end of the day, Christina has the talent to back up whatever erotic scenes she wants to include in her own video. There’s a fine line between being comfortable and confident in your own sexuality and skin versus using your sexuality as power to get attention. Granted, I expose my bias because I don’t see Christina as a sex symbol nor do I think she wants to be one. I think she’s an artist who uses the multiple facets of herself to allow others to better experience her music. And at the end of the day, she’d still sell records if she just stood there and sang. Some artists have to show as much skin as possible and put just as much energy into their dancing as they do their “singing” because for them having the total package is essential to success.

So yeah while her new video is out there I still respect her vision because I seriously doubt she’s relying on her lack of clothes to sell records. You become a sex object when you turn your sexuality into a product as if that’s the only thing that will make people bite. Christina just doesn’t have to work that hard.

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It’s funny how as a society we have no real idea what the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra looked like, but still collectively revere her as an iconic beauty primarily because of her power (she was the last to rule Egypt as an Egyptian Pharaoh) and her ties to both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and of course we can’t forget her suicide by snake bite. In general though the term “Queen” elicits imagery of someone who is above all others in terms of grace, beauty and intelligence just like the word “princess” might as well be synonymous with either the late Princess Diana or any one of the Disney princesses. Of course we know that, in reality, those qualities are simply stereotypes – just take a look at the Queen of England.

Nonetheless, Hollywood has a knack for extracting the fairytale out of any story and thus, Cleopatra is on our list of the most beautiful women ever. Elizabeth Taylor’s 1963 role in the epic film certainly helped in the image department but failed to acknowledge the Queen’s very probable ethnic background. Historians say that while she was Greek, she did learn Egyptian and requested her portraits to be in Egyptian style. As a Black woman it was comforting to think that one of the most beautiful women in the world looked more like me than Elizabeth Taylor but no one can really say for sure what she looked like. Who’s to say that people of Grecian descent weren’t brown-skinned forty something years before Christ?

Well now we can fret not. The beautiful Thandie Newton appears as Cleopatra in a series of photos that have been released to coincide with the Virgin Media Shorts film competition. And she looks gorgeous.

No, she won’t be appearing in a film about the Pharaoh anytime soon-Kim Cattrall is the next in line for that role. She’ll be starring in a play Cleopatra and Anthony at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre.

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After Jessica Simpson experienced sheer torture dealing with the so-called weight gain from her size 4 unflattering “mom” jeans, she turned her pain into gain by venturing around the world in her new reality show, The Price of Beauty. While I was super excited to see how the show handled issues of beauty and self-esteem, it really just turned into a travel show of beauty rituals across the globe. I’m still happy she’s doing the show, but obviously depth isn’t what she was after. It barely scratches the surface of what women across the world deal with when it comes to accepting their physical beauty or lack thereof. When I read that Jessica (who I consider to be a very beautiful woman) was going to appear on the May cover of Marie Claire unretouched, I immediately went to pick up a copy. How cool and confident is that?

Britney Spears followed by releasing the unretouched/retouched photos from her candies ad which visibly showed that her thighs and midsection had been altered. And now, Kim Kardashian, who is never too far behind any venture that will lead to more success and fame, has posed naked sans photoshop along with Joy Bryant and Amanda de Cadenet in the May issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Their aim? To show that curves and flaws are not only what makes us human, but sexy as well. After all, anyone can be beautiful with all the makeup, personal trainers, diet and well… photoshop, which gives you anything including a taut tummy and a lifted booty you weren’t able to achieve in the gym.

So celebrities sans photoshop, is it a yeah or a nay?

The institution of fame and celebrity is all predicated on one person being better- more beautiful, more in shape, more sexy, etc- than the masses. If this avalanche of unretouched celebs continues it could certainly do a lot for the self-esteem of women everywhere but it could also backfire. If we, as a society, no longer revere the celebrity as the pinnacle of perfection what will happen to the institution itself? If we no longer believe the hype then what is there to sell? I argue that while showing us unretouched photos does, for a second, make us think “oh celebrities are people just like us,” it won’t really change much, mainly because the average woman’s low self-esteem fuels a multi-billion dollar business.

I don’t think anyone’s insecurities can be erased by being made aware of other people’s flaws. While it might make us feel good in the moment to know that at least a couple of celebrities created their six pack abs during a lunchtime lipo session, it does nothing to erase the loathing over our own cellulite pocket or the little pooch that rests above our favorite jeans.

And the irony in all this is that Kim Kardashian’s (insert any celebrity’s name here) unretouched photo looks amazing, so unless you’re going to show me a picture where I can actually see a flaw… save it.

I still give them two thumbs up for the effort- anytime we can actually discuss these issues it builds awareness and perhaps a healing of some woman, somewhere- but at the moment, at least in kim’s case, it’s eerily reminiscent of a PR spin to become more likable.

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