Vanity is only skin deep and Demi shows it
I’ve had enough of broads in the buff. These days you can’t open a magazine or click on a website without being confronted by the latest supermodel or Hollywood starlet with their gear off.
Whether it’s Jennifer Lawrence resting her boobs on the water on the cover of Vanity Fair, Kim Kardashian popping a champagne cork wearing only a string of pearls or actor Caitlin Stasey going full frontal on her new website, nudity is everywhere.
There’s also feminist activists FEMEN and the #freethenipple mob who use their bare breasts as their weapons. Hmmm … no thanks.
It’s usually done in the guise of helping other women embrace their own bodies, but is often little more than shameless self-promotion.
Sure, it’s a good way of getting attention, but I don’t need this sort of perfection staring from the newsstands to make me feel better about my white, short, motherly body.
I am sick of the sanctimonious posturing of women with perfect bodies telling the rest of us to embrace our imperfect bodies.
I’ve long thought that the average woman would be happy to be respected while clothed, and that getting acceptance for being naked isn’t high on our list of priorities. And then I saw singer Demi Lovato’s naked Vanity Fair shoot this week and realised how powerful nude images can be when they’re done in the right way for the right reasons.
In this case it’s a game changer because there’s an actual reason she’s doing it. Lovato, if you haven’t heard of her, is a former Disney actor turned singer. She recently turned up to a Vanity Fair photo shoot and made a snap decision to do things differently.
She decided there should only be three rules: “no make-up, no clothes, no retouching”. It was to mark a new phase in her life and leave behind the depression, bulimia, anorexia and self-harm that plagued her younger years.
Rather than do yet another overly-styled made-up photo shoot, Lovato opted to be more authentic, real and free. She wanted to celebrate the body she has hated and mutilated for so many years – warts and all.
In the shots released this week, we see that Demi is thin, but not skeletal, and her tatts, muscles and round womanly bottom are on full display. Some of the images are powerful and iconic.
Indeed, this one sitting perched on the edge of the bath, her back and bottom looking like a fleshy violin is really beautiful. But in others she looks simply … ordinary. She looks less like a Hollywood star and more like someone you’d sit next to on a bus. Without make-up, Lovato is attractive, but not stunning, and has a good, but not extraordinary, body.
I love this ordinariness and, for me, that’s what has been missing in this nude activism. It’s all very well to take your clothes off in the name of body image, but if your body is better than anyone else’s, then you’re only making others feel like crap. Jennifer Hawkins’ infamous 2009 Marie Claire cover was a case in point.
Australia’s favourite model took her gear off to make the rest of us feel better about how we look without our clothes. It didn’t work, trust me.
It’s a point I made at the time by taking my own clothes off and being photographed showing off my 39year-old less-than-perfect bod.
Lovato’s sheer ordinariness is a vital reminder, once again, of the artifice involved in showbiz. Images are heavily retouched and highly styled. Nothing is natural or left to chance. Normal faces are transformed with skilful lighting and make-up. Professional posing and photography can transform even normal people into superstars.
Lovato is fighting against all of that, wanting instead to be “comfortable” in her own skin, and nothing more. It’s a great step forward, and the Vanity Fair images have great power in the context of Lovato’s own story.
We are never going to have genuine body acceptance until people start getting used to seeing real, average, beautiful bodies in all shapes and sizes.
Congratulations to Lovato for being so willing to tell her story, and for being willing to bare her soul and her body in the name of self-acceptance. Blog with Susie at susieobrien.com.au, follow her on Twitter @susieob and Facebook.com/ NewswithSuse