I ADMIT when I saw the photo of Cindy Crawford on Twitter I instantly retweeted it. There she was, resplendent in black bra and knickers, fedora and fringed coat.
It wasn’t the fashion I was endorsing when I clicked to send it on, it was the fact that the image clearly hadn’t been smoothed and sanitised with a generous sprinkle of Photoshop.
Crawford’s belly isn’t taut and flat, it’s visible, her stretchmarks are too. She is beautiful, of course, but she looks like we know women in their late 40s (she has just turned 49) look. What a moment, I thought, what a blow against the ubiquitous airbrushing that infects the beauty and fashion industries.
Unfortunately, I got it wrong.
The photo was leaked. Of course it was. Why would a woman who has spent her life being photographed and digitally manipulated – shaped, toned and depilated by mouse – suddenly be railing against the system? Why would she suddenly be willing to be seen in all her glorious imperfection?
Maybe I thought that, nearing 50, Crawford was comfortable enough in her own skin to declare, enough is enough. Or perhaps I thought she would be happy to show her body as it is, knowing what a good turn she’d be doing the millions who strive for an impossible bodily perfection, harming their emotional and physical health whilst pumping billions of pounds into the industries that feed off their insecurities. Whatever I thought, it was at best wishful and at worst shockingly naive.
And now, images of Beyoncé from a L’Oréal shoot have emerged and they show her face close-up. She’s plastered in make-up and her skin looks a bit blemished beneath, which makes perfect sense as it’s routinely covered in so much slap. “Emerged” is the word being used to describe how these images are circulating online.
The images of Crawford and now Beyoncé (and before that Lena Dunham when she posed for Vogue and, suspecting she looked a bit too good, feminist website Jezebel offered $10,000 for unretouched images) didn’t emerge, they were leaked by someone. Now you could say that this was a political act because obviously neither Crawford, nor Beyoncé, nor any of the other famous and beautiful women who make an obscene amount of money peddling perfume and cosmetics have been willing to jeopardise their lucrative contracts by showing themselves to be, frankly, just like the rest of us.
But didn’t I argue here not very long ago that leaked images of famous women (it was Jennifer Lawrence that time) weren’t fair game but rather a part of the routine shaming of women, sometimes for how they behave but most often for how they look? And is this really any different?
Maybe there is more of a justification this time. Maybe the outpouring of praise provoked by the Crawford images will send the necessary signal that it’s OK to age, to have a tummy that wobbles and skin that is less than perfect; in fact it’s more than OK, it’s beautiful. I hope that’s true. But I don’t think I can sustain that naivety.
Stonewall goes trans global
Campaign group Stonewall was set up in 1989 to provide a focus for opposition against the odious Section 28, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. It was named after the riots around New York’s Stonewall Inn two decades earlier, when gay men, lesbians, drag queens and trans people finally fought back against police intimidation and harassment, a defining moment in LGBT history.
And so, the announcement that Stonewall is expanding its current campaigns and programmes to trans people is to be welcomed, even if it comes as a tiny bit of a surprise that it wasn’t already doing that. And if ever a community needed some campaigning muscle behind it, it’s the trans community. Yes, Transparent might’ve bagged a slew of Golden Globes, and Orange Is The New Black has created a springboard for a woman such as Laverne Cox to rise to the heady heights of the Time magazine cover. But a survey last year found nearly half of young trans people had attempted suicide, and more than half had considered it. So here’s to Stonewall and all the trans people who have for years been doing all they can to live their lives as they want to, no matter the prejudice they’ve faced. Let’s hope things get easier from now on.
Sacks of humanity
I WAS fortunate to be stopped in my tracks recently reading an article written by scientist Oliver Sacks for the New York Times. Sacks was writing to reveal that he has terminal cancer and is “face to face with dying”. I felt fortunate to read such a magnificent expression of humanity.
In hardly any words at all, with a nod to David Hume, Sacks reminds us that death is about life and cancer is often about nothing more than bad luck and, truly, it’s never too late to live as we want to.
“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me,” he wrote. “I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.” What a gift.
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