Mind the gap

Gap-toothed women are in vogue.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FASHION - By JES­SICA YADEGARAN

MUCH like her shiny hair and warm eyes, the space be­tween Geneva Aguirre’s front teeth has al­ways been a part of her look.

When she was lit­tle, Aguirre used to stick a flavoured tooth pick in the gap – just be­cause it would fit and no one else could do it. It made her unique.

It wasn’t un­til Aguirre no­ticed iconic gap-toothed model Lau­ren Hut­ton in the pages of her favourite fashion mag­a­zines that she re­alised her smile was not only unique, but maybe even beau­ti­ful.

“I guess I’ve al­ways thought of it as a cool thing,” says Aguirre, 48, of Con­cord, Cal­i­for­nia.

These days, so does the beauty in­dus­try. Gap-toothed mod­els were all over the run­ways at this sea­son’s Paris Fashion Week. In­stead of fix­ing their teeth, some of Hollywood’s fresh­est faces, like Anna Paquin and El­iz­a­beth Moss, proudly sport a mid­line di­astema, the den­tal term for the gap.

And last month on Amer­ica’s Next Top Model, host Tyra Banks sent a 22-year-old con­tes­tant from Boise, Idaho, to the den­tist to widen her gap. The beauty bl­o­go­sphere has been buzzing ever since.

Men sport the gap, too, but cul­tur­ally, there has al­ways been a mys­tique about di­astem­atic women. In Ghana, Namibia, and Nige­ria, a gap in women’s teeth is a sign of beauty and fer­til­ity, says Ber­nice Agyek­wena, a Ghana­ian jour­nal­ist and Gates Fel­low of African Agri­cul­ture at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Berkeley’s Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism.

“Some women even go to the ex­tent of cre­at­ing an ar­ti­fi­cial gap in their teeth be­cause they want to meet the tra­di­tional stan­dards set for African beauty,” she says.

In the Western world, our fas­ci­na­tion dates back to the Mid­dle Ages, when Ge­of­frey Chaucer wrote in The Can­ter­bury Tales of the gap-toothed wife of Bath and her lust­ful ways.

But, ex­perts be­lieve our new in­ter­est in the di­astema rep­re­sents a back­lash against unattain­able beauty stan­dards and an ob­ses­sion with per­fec­tion.

“I think for so long the look was cookie-cut­ter beauty and it doesn’t stand out,” says Heather Muir, beauty news edi­tor for Al­lure mag­a­zine in New York. “We’re shift­ing to a more quirky beauty, and I think that in­cludes women who have very fair skin, many freck­les, or frizzy, big hair.”

Two gap-toothed mod­els in par­tic­u­lar, Jac Ja­ga­ciak and Lind­sey Wix­son, caught Al­lure mag­a­zine editors’ eyes dur­ing the Paris run­ways, Muir says. She also calls at­ten­tion to re­cent ads by Chanel, Marc Ja­cobs, and Miu Miu. All fea­ture mod­els with gaps be­tween their teeth.

“This could be a con­fi­dence booster to a lot of girls out there who are 12 or 13, and mor­ti­fied be­cause they have a gap,” she says. “Now’s the time to let what­ever is in­ter­est­ing about your look shine through. Em­brace it.” Sylvia Lan of Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia, has al­ways em­braced her di­astema. So have the lovestruck men who men­tion it be­fore ask­ing her out. “They seem to think it’s sexy,” says Lan, a 40-some­thing who works in sales. “Go fig­ure. In­stead of look­ing at my chest, they’re look­ing at my teeth.”

Re­cently, at a wed­ding in Hol­lis­ter, Cal­i­for­nia, she was sur­prised when a woman with her teenage daugh­ter in tow ap­proached Lan to point it out.

“Look,” the woman said, “She’s beau­ti­ful and she has a gap!”

Lan re­as­sured the girl, who was self­con­scious about hers. “I told her a healthy white smile is more im­por­tant,” Lan says. “As long as she could not drive a Mack truck through it then she’d be fine. And that the boys love it.”

Les Blank sure did. His in­ter­est in gap-toothed women be­gan in the eighth grade, with a smil­ing beauty he ad­mired from a dis­tance. In 1987, the El Cer­rito, Cal­i­for­nia, di­rec­tor made Gap­Toothed Women, a doc­u­men­tary homage to gap-toothed women liv­ing in the Bay Area. Hut­ton is also in the film.

“They have an at­trac­tive, out­go­ing per­son­al­ity that’s warm and vi­tal,” says Blank, who in­ter­viewed 100 women for the film. “The whole world is so full of ar­ti­fice that I think peo­ple just want to see some­thing nat­u­ral and real.” – Dis­trib­uted by McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices.

Some of Hollywood’s fresh­est faces, like Anna Paquin, sport a gap.

French singer and ac­tress Vanessa Par­adis, and Johnny Depp’s part­ner, is an­other well­known gap­toothed celebrity.

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