July 31, 2012

they're only pretending.

I'm watching About Face, HBO's documentary on the rise of the Super Model in the 40's thru the 80's.  These are present day interviews and most of these lookers look no older than 40.  Some were modeling in the 50's.  You do the math.

Isabella Rosselini is intoxicating.  She exudes culture and awareness and a shy, almost sheepishness of her renown grace and powerful beauty as a model in the 60's.  She now has a pixie cut and is wearing a suit that awkwardly suggests men's wear circa 1996.  So, I gather she's using androgyny as a visual device.  She can and she's still Isabella Rosselini.  Anyone else wears Mr. Bean's Sunday best and you think she's chaneling him due to lack of medication.  Isaella Rosselini wears it and she's conscious and confident.  Smarter than us because she knows she's stunning and that at this point of her life, her attire is not, in fact, what determines self worth.
Rossellini, as featured in About Face

Isabella Rossellini, Modeling for Elizabeth Arden

These first few generations of super models saw the world in a way that no young girls at that point had ever been able to.  They donned designs created by the very hands of the fathers of fashion houses that laid the tracks.  Halston, Calvin Klein, Hermes.  They posed for the covers of Vogue that we can now buy  as vintage art posters.  These women were [are] beautiful, young, everything on their bodies in the right places; the right proportions.  The few that actually set out to model back then evidently had a gut feeling that Studio 54 was in the works, that Playboy was an up and coming club with a cute mascot, that coke was an avant guard nutritional supplement that allowed you to work hard and play harder.  Women who we look at now as trend setters and pardon the pun, role models.

With Vienna so impressionable and so female, I frequently consider her journey through all of this.  I was surfing the channels tonight with Nico and made him stop on this documentary (which I'm sure he was thrilled).  But it's important. This isn't just about pictures and ruffles and the magic and the flying.  It's about a culture that had [has] 16 year olds starving and competing with one another- much more with themselves- trying to decipher which part of their bodies was good enough to make them acceptable as people.  These models were at least paid for it.

The underlying message is that most of these girls felt like frauds.  "It's like you're not even really there. It's what the person perceives from you."  Fine.  I accept.  But what's admissible in this culture; what's even palatable to the general public to perceive perpetuates the notion that a carrot a day so that you get the lines in the chest thinness and the hipbones that jut out of the waistband of your jeans is strong and right and worth the hunger.

Listen folks, there was a time when my hipbones used to chafe the mattress when I'd sleep on my stomach at night.  I was nowhere near as confident then as I am now.  (K, so maybe I felt better in bikinis, but that's besides the point.)  Nothing tasted as good as being thin felt.  I'm not the first person to ever say that and sadly, I'm far from being the last.

Paulina Porizkova remembers being a typical 15 year old, completely insecure, who wanted to seem more grown up than she really was.  I'm going to blink and this will be Vienna and her girlfriends- much to my horror.  Hopefully Vienna's context will fall within the confines of her very strong family life and secure friends so that her teenage years are not as painful as mine were.  (Yikes.)  I digress.  Ms. Porizkova discusses her modeling friends lost to drugs, bulimia, anorexia, and newly acquired STDs.  Young girls model because older, stronger women wouldn't dare under such circumstances.  "What people call sexual harassment we called compliments."

Paulina Porizkova
Vogue Fashion Director (1971-1988) Jade Hobson (think the Devil Wears Prada) recalls these 'girls' as kids and "with makeup we turned them into someone they weren't" as HBO does a short video montage of modeling's gruesome and gorgeous tragedy, Gia. "I think, unfortunately, we created a monster."  She mentions overlooking the track marks on Gia's arms that just gave her 'that look.'  At least she had the decency to look embarrassed.

Gia, known to 'look through the camera'

It's not all drugs and death.  It was drugs and life.  Parties, free love, beauty, money- the world is your oyster when you're the beautiful pearl.

Miss Pish is a pearl.  Who or what will shake her of that freedom that she was born with?  When will that day come when her awareness of herself goes beyond her own system of security and succumbs to the culture of a body as parts instead of a body as life?  I won't discuss my physical insecurities in front of her.  I call her pretty [and beautiful, and adorable...etc, etc], but more often you'll hear me dote on her as a 'lovely lady.'  It's not about how you look, 'nana, if you're reading this in the future, it's about your spine and your grace and your willingness be the observer.  ...This is your mother speaking.

But let's all face it.  Women thrive off the chance to feel beautiful and to do beautiful things and to be apart of something that will have a lasting and beautiful product.  We are beautiful.  What we are capable of; creating, raising, leading...fixing... there's nothing more beautiful than that.  My most beautiful project will be to cultivate my girl's existence so that her self worth knows no bounds.   Anything other than that is just playing dress up.

"We all have to go sometime, and when I go, 
I want to go with my high heels on."  
-Carmen Dell'Orefice
Camen Dell-Orefice, 1948
Dell'Orefice, present day

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