Role-Models for Real Life   5 comments

March 12, 2018 – In years gone by, clothing stores, makeup manufacturers and the like have only used models with those perfect bodies and skin to show us their products.  How do you feel about this?  Would you like to see “real” people in ads?

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Model 1I find myself in a unique position on this topic. My mother was a petites model for a Seattle department store off and on through her late-teens and 20s, even after she gave birth to my brother. She was 5’2″ and naturally maintained a weight in the 90s simply by smoking cigarettes (which everyone did back then) and not having a sweet tooth. The most she ever weighed was 102 pounds — she was pregnant with my brother at the time.

My daughter is 5’8″ and struggles to maintain a weight of 125 pounds – the low-end for her height. She’s got my mother’s metabolism without smoking and her paternal grandmother’s height. She has had unsolicited offers to model, but has things to say about the objectifying of women.

I don’t fit either ideal. I’m 5’1″ and I am athletic, which means I have muscles. Therefore, petite clothing lines often do not fit my thighs and biceps, even if they fit my height and waist. I buy my clothes in the “normal” lines and then modify them. It works out to costing just about the same as petite clothing costs. I also accidentally discovered that men’s jeans are 30% less expensive and you can match the waist (hips for women) and inseam to your personal needs. (So the zipper is reversed — blah-blah).

I have curly hair. Curly hair doesn’t match some sort of ideal in the advertising world. Those models in the “curly” ads didn’t have curly hair when they walked into the studio. How do I know? Because their hair is so shiny and that’s not what curly hair does without a lot of very expensive product, which is what they’re trying to sell, but having tried their very expensive product — it rarely works. (Just saying)

Of course, models have perfect everything. If you are making your living having photos snapped of you, then that’s one of your job requirements – look perfect. Occasionally you see a plus-sized model who looks fantastic, but of course, she’s really toned and she’s got great hair and perfect makeup. So we “normals” should just get over the idea that models will ever look like us. They have teams of people to make them look gorgeous while some of us are still sharing a bathroom with a guy who likes to shower in the morning.

Model 2If you didn’t get that joke,  you don’t have curly hair, which reacts to humidity, which is what is produced by a shower.

Yeah, there’s a tiny part of me that would love to see a “real” person modeling those clothes, that makeup, that hair product, but I recognize that reality doesn’t sell. Everybody wants to be able to imagine that if they buy that dress, they’ll look like the willowy 5’8″ model who eats one meal a day. It’s why we try the dress on … and why we stand in the fitting room imagining what it would look like if we lost five pounds or wore a girdle or donned 4″ heels. But the reality is I’m 5’1″, I’ve had two babies, and I eat a healthy diet rather than starving myself, so I’m not ever going to look like the model and, personally, I’m okay with that.

I sooth my annoyance at her perfection with the knowledge that she couldn’t keep up with me on the hiking trail, where it doesn’t matter if your clothes don’t flow just right or your hair is reacting to the humidity. My life has different requirements from that model’s life and, mostly, I’m okay with that.

Model 3One of my best friends used to be one of those models. She made a great living while it lasted, and that paid for a social work degree and now she runs a charter boat in the Florida Keys with her husband. She points out that models aren’t a whole lot different from professional athletes. They make a lot of sacrifices for the job. Most aren’t Rhodes scholars. They’re only qualifications for a job are looking pretty and being skinny. “What would they become if modeling wasn’t available?” Joi asked. “A couple of years starving and having my breasts duct-taped down paid for college and the career that followed. And, I used those photographers as references for my social work jobs because they could say I was a professional who showed up for work and put in a full measure. That seems a lot more dignified than the alternative – a lifetime of asking ‘Do you want fries with that?'”

Joi’s take on it colors my view as does my mother’s. If all the models looked like me, my daughter would want to see models who wore horizontal stripes and bold florals because those look fantastic on her and should be avoided strenuously by anyone my height — including petite models. And if there was a more reality-based mix of models … would that make us more comfortable with ourselves or would we still look at those taller and skinnier and less curly-headed than ourselves and want to be them?

I think this may be my individualist streak rearing its counter-cultural head, but I am not all that comfortable with trying to change other people, especially a whole industry of other people.

lelamarkhamprofilepicMaybe, what’s really needed is mothers having conversations with their daughters about how life is not an advertisement. We can admire the tall skinny people with the perfect hair and makeup … or the short athletic people with the perfect hair and makeup … or, the frankly-chubby people with the perfect hair and makeup, but real life will never be like that and it’s okay because that advertisement is a moment in time captured after a whole lot of work to create a fantasy that is nothing like real life with the aim to sell us clothes, hair and skin products or something else. We might accomplish a great deal more having that conversation about accepting our bodies as they are and about the lure of consumerism with our daughters (and sons) instead of trying to change the fashion industry.

Posted March 12, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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5 responses to “Role-Models for Real Life

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  1. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner, Indie Author. and commented:
    Well said Aurora! I’m 5ft 3ins and have curly hair which shrinks in the rain! I am anything but perfect, but to be honest… I really don’t care! No product will ever straighten my hair, but as I’m growing older I find I prefer it curly anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. I finally found a handful of products that allow my hair to be curly without being frizzy and I just stopped fighting it after that. Very occasionally, I flat-iron it for a special event, but most of the time it is natural and I LOVE it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too now I’m older. I think because it doesn’t lay flat to the head it actually looks better on an older person.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a matter of figuring out what works because naturally curly is only just now getting the attention it deserves. My most recent trick, the one I wish I’d known 40 years ago, was from a gal at church who is from Egypt … so curlier than mine. She never brushes her hair and just uses her hands to undo tangles. I started about a year ago and my hair is so much healthier than it used to be and because I’m not adding static to it, it actually tangles less. My son has started doing it too and his hair is gorgeous.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good advice. I never use a brush, only a wide-toothed rake, which doesn’t hold static.

        Like

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