Van­ity is only skin deep and Demi shows it

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP -

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

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